Tag Archives: John Fahey

The Groove

What is this elusive groove of which people speak? I think a lot of aspects of music appreciation happen whether consciously or not on a deeply personal level so one listener’s Grateful Dead may be another’s Phish. A groove is not simply when all of the characters, parts, fall into synchronous orbit….it’s hard to describe but I’m going to give it a shot. When you listen to a track like “Papa Don’t Take No Mess” by James Brown you cannot help but move. It may be a twitch, a tic, a barely noticeable head bob but I defy any human to not feel the groove of this tune. A possible indication of groove is that I missed the song when it was over.

The Meters get into the groove, regularly. Dig “Cissy Strut” if you don’t believe me

It’s instrumental music but I find myself in the land of the tune…..it’s like reading a great book and you find yourself immersed in the surroundings, smells, history of the story so much so that when you have to get off the subway you’re at odds with the rest of the world. Groove is transformative and transportive. You can tell when the groove has not been established….if you find the music repetitive or boring, odds are whomever is playing has failed to achieve the “groove”. One may mistakenly think the burden of the groove rests squarely on the drummers shoulders, not so. Even a solo guitar player can establish a groove. Groove does not have to be funky (though it often is). I think John Fahey establishes a groove here.

I think it’s no coincidence the way a needle rides in the groove of a record. It bounces along through dips and sways in the valleys of song (new lyric Lynch? mebbe). Dvorak has groove

Anyways happy spring to you all!!

Playing March 25th @7PM PATH Cafe 131 Christopher Street, NYC w/ James Beaudreau (lead guitar) Ben Kraus (bass) dig the essence!
March 25th

Alternate Tunings

So a co-worker of mine, Ryan, has been taking guitar lessons from another co-worker of mine, Tom (http://rotaryclub.bandcamp.com/). Ryan swung by my desk one day and said something like “Hey man, what’s the deal with alternate tunings? Why do guitarists do that?”. My initial response was well you get deeper sounds and you can play chords which would otherwise be hard to form in the usual guitar E-A-D-G-B-E formation (strings low to high). Also alternate tunings make slide playing easier. Conceptually though I had to parse through what it means to change the tuning of ones guitar. Some favorite players of mine play in many various alternate tunings, John Fahey, Nick Drake, and Joni Mitchell. John Fahey’s choice of alternate tuning I can grasp easily since he was usually a solo performer performing instrumental tunes and other tunings add variety. It may test an audiences patience asking them to wait while moving from tuning to tuning but alternate tunings do offer very varied sounds. This is a link to his many various tunings:
And here’s, ‘On the Sunnyside of The Ocean’, in DGDGBD which is an open G chord:

Here’s Joni Mitchell playing ‘Just Like This Train’ in an open C, CGDFCE

I’m also including this version of ‘California’ with Joni on dulcimer because it’s amazing!

Here’s Nick Drake’s ‘Cello Song’ in (I think) DADGDF# (capo on 1st fret)

Bands use alternate tunings too! Keith Richards (Rolling Stones) uses open G quite a bit and apparently without a low e-string! Stephen Malkmus (Pavement) employs many various tunings. I use a couple on some of my songs. So, in short, I encourage all budding guitarists to de-tune and re-tune your guitars, it opens up sonic possibilities and chord voicings you might not have otherwise encountered!!

I’ll be on the cable access show Deprogramming Hour tonight at 12:30AM MNN4 or mnn.org after Boy Altar, tune in (get it?)!!
Have great listens this weekend and I’ll be more prompt with next weeks post! -p


I have heard a couple of times, not from people I know mind you so I suppose I should say I have OVERheard a couple of times that, “lyrics don’t really matter to me”. In the interest of pursuing a more open mind, I’ve been trying to grasp this one. I begin by checking into my ‘instrumental’ brain. John Fahey (no lyrics) Chopin (no lyrics) Pelican (no lyrics …until their most recent album). I am totally fine with this. Next I move on to words or sounds or seemingly incongruous utterances, Captain Beefheart, Beck, Pavement…words which form a feeling without a particular narrative or a nonsensical narrative or a painting, an impression. I dig. Then I think of direct storytelling songs, abstract truth songs, and pure outburst songs. And I think if any of these songs were made by people who didn’t care about what they were writing then it’d be pretty okay for someone listening to say something like “lyrics really don’t matter to me” because they didn’t matter to the maker. Can you imagine the song, Imagine, without the words?

How about, A Boy Named Sue?

Blowin’ In The Wind?

I went through a heavy hip-hop period when I was a kid and I can not conceive of Rappers Delight by The Sugarhill Gang, The Message by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, or The Freaks Come Out at Night by Whodini or really any rap without lyrics.


Sorry for the short post this week folks (super busy) Have a great week! -p