Various American Primitive Vol. II: Pre-War Revenants (1897-1939)

First off, if you think that Delta blues is defined by men like Charley Patton, Son House and Robert Johnson, you obviously haven’t heard Geeshie Wiley’s "Last Kind Word Blues.” Pick this collection up immediately just for this remarkable song and thank me later. In fact, this entire set, one of the last projects commandeered by the late John Fahey, overflows with his keen ear for the long-lost gems of the first golden age of sound recording. As the equally compelling liner notes remind us, it was always Fahey’s intention to bring the dead back to life and, in the process, re-write history. So aside from Wiley, who actually was previously unearthed by Robert Crumb in his documentary, we have the spine-chillingly transcendent gospel wailing of Homer Quincy Smith, the effortlessly thrilling guitar playing of Bayless Rose, and the simply indefinable Tommy Settlers, Pigmeat Terry, Blues Birdhead, and the Nugrape Twins. Does this all sound too weird to be true? On first listen, some of it is. But that’s the point, this isn’t a history lesson. All of these songs cut across the decades with remarkable clarity, reinforcing the belief that there is still much gold yet to be discovered that broadens the picture of early American music. It did not end with Harry Smith, and hopefully it will not end with John Fahey. This release alone is worth a truckload of dry, scholarly Smithsonian compilations. (Revenant)