José Medeles is one of a very small handful of drummers that could make a drummer’s tribute to John Fahey and I wouldn’t bat an eye. Medeles, best known for his combo 1939 Ensemble and his books of drum philosophy (The Stoic Drummer and A Drummer’s Ethos), is such an emotive player. Whether it’s with the 1939 Ensemble or bashing it out with The Breeders since 2001, his rhythms exude a sinuous spirit. Each hit, each rhythm is pieced together with consideration and care that it imbues a resolute energy into any music he plays.
To make his Fahey tribute, Railroad Cadences & Melancholic Anthems, Medeles enlisted a group of his favorite guitarists – Marisa Anderson, Chris Funk, and M. Ward – and recorded a series of inspired improvisations that capture Fahey’s spirit. On “Richness of Peace,” M. Ward’s guitar melodies slink through empty streets illuminated by the golden hour, meditating on Fahey’s rhythmic character and content in the contemplative cadence. Ward’s playing is lyrical and captivating, buoyed by Medeles’s ruminative approach. “You can hear him as a songwriter…a brilliant songsmith, brilliant guitar player,” Medeles says. Weightless passages shine on “Richness of Peace” because of the trust Ward and Medeles have for each other, leading to a vulnerability and tenderness woven through the song.
In the video directed, filmed, and edited by Rachel Blumberg, this feeling is captured in the slowly-unfolding black and white footage. Days pass as lifetimes in a journey that never stops moving forward even while looking back at what came before. Together with the music, it’s a stunning, original tribute to Fahey.
Railroad Cadences & Melancholic Anthems will be released on May 20 via Jealous Butcher. Pre-order below.