I started learning how to play the guitar because I thought it would provide a better accompaniment to my singing than playing the drums did.
At the time, I had no idea that there was a way to play a song on the guitar so that it would sound like the guitar itself was singing the song.
John Fahey introduced me to this possibility and he showed me that it was a very cool thing to be able to do.
John Fahey (Feb.28, 1939 – Feb.22, 2001) was a fingerstyle guitarist who primarily played the steel-string acoustic guitar. From his first album – 1959’s Blind Joe Death – and on through the other 35 studio and live albums released during his lifetime, John Fahey pioneered, popularized and perpetuated a genre of music he referred to as “American Primitive Guitar.”
In 1968, he released an album entitled The New Possibility: John Fahey’s Guitar Soli Christmas Album.
There had never been an album of holiday music played on acoustic guitar in the Merle Travis/Elizabeth Cotten/Country Blues-based fingerpicking style before this one.
In later years, Fahey recounted what gave him the idea to make such a record.
“I was in the back of a record store in July and I saw all these cartons of Bing Crosby’s White Christmas albums. The clerk said it always sells out.”
In the liner notes on the original LP jacket, Fahey gives credit to 20th Century German-American theologian and Christian existentialist philosopher Paul Tillich for referring to the birth of Jesus Christ as “The New Possibility.”
“The birth of this New Possibility,” Fahey wrote, “has nothing to do with Christmas trees, presents, Santa Claus, and little to do with superstitious thoughts regarding virgin births, astrologers, bodily ascensions of virgins, etc. The New Possibility is rather the gift of reconciliation between God and man.”
Regarding his arrangements of the holiday pieces on the album, Fahey’s liner notes explained: “The songs are, wherever possible, syncopated, not because I feel that syncopation or ‘swinging the carols’ is more in keeping ‘with the times,’ but simply because I prefer to play them the way I do.”
Regarding his performances, Fahey told an interviewer in 1979: “There are more mistakes on this album than on any of the other 17 albums I’ve recorded.” However, The New Possibility proved to be one of his best selling albums.
I don’t remember when I bought my copy, but the very first time I listened to The New Possibility I was amazed and immediately intrigued. This LP has proven to be immensely influential in my guitar playing. It is one of my favorite records during the holidays and at any time of the year.
Here’s what I heard the first time I dropped the needle on Side 1 of this LP.
I hope you enjoyed that.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and the best of everything to you and yours in 2019.
“Good music doesn’t get old.”
“All valuable stories need to be told over and over and over again.”