Hooray for Another Day CD - Tompkins Square

Taking cues from his more famous sixties Fonotone and Takoma labelmates, John Fahey, Bukka White and Robbie Basho, cult-guitarist Max Ochs - the troubled folksinger Phil Ochs was his cousin - has long massaged a curiosity in the nexus of Western folk and blues music with an Eastern approach to music that suffuses exotic sounds with mystic spiritual transcendence. Hooray for Another Day, Ochs' first album in six years, sees this interest continue. The disc kicks open with the improvisational title track, on which tabla-like percussion and finger cymbals subtend Ochs' musings on his Electromatic Gretsch. He makes the Gretsch sing and slide with a glass medicine bottle, culling eerie and ethereal harmonies, perfuming Blind Willie Johnson melodies with the heady incense of the Indian subcontinent (a theme that echoes through the remainder of the disc).

The ghost of Fahey is resurrected by a cover of "In Christ There Is No East or West," an African-American spiritual the eccentric master saved from obscurity, making it one of his better known songs. While the technique and erudition of Fahey may go unchallenged, Ochs does read the tune with respect and an emotionally honest heart. Fahey gets referenced again in the somewhat shambling "Oncones." The acoustic guitar work here, finger-picked and sliding, stutters and shudders, but the chords are heavenly and it's Hooray for Another Day's finest moment. Elsewhere on Hooray, Ochs tributes his cousin with a poem (one of several originals he reads here) that gently chides the man and ultimately only grasps at air in understanding the death by suicide of Phil Ochs. Fans of recent acid-folk acts will find much to like on this album, and Ochs suffers nowhere near the amount of self-consciousness and pretense heard in so much of that sub-genre.

By Michael Meade



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