Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Record Review - Frank Fairfield

Out On The Open West
Tompkins Square / FUSE

Californian Frank Fairfield is, in this day and age of ever-advancing technology and plastic-coated consumerism, an enigma wrapped in a riddle wrapped deep within the billowy folds of the ghost of a bygone era; his Appalachian-steeped sounds, his scruffily plucked banjo, his ragged voice belying his 25 years and his place in the aforementioned fast-moving modern world.

With a past shrouded in mystery and a future as blurry as coke-bottle glasses, Fairfield came out of virtually nowhere with nothing but this music and an ethos rarely seen anymore, one of complete apathy for the modern world and all its trappings, preferring instead the solitude of this music that for so long has been teetering on the brink of historical limbo.  On this, his second full-length recording, Out On The Open West, he brings it all back though and you’re transported back to a time when it was simple.  Think CW Stoneking, but even more ‘real’.

Playing banjo and fiddle, and in this instance bringing in the talents of Willie Watson (Old Crow Medicine Show), Jerron ‘Blind Boy’ Paxton, Tom Marion and the Petrojvic brothers, Fairfield lights it up with nothing but an old-timey nous and a penchant for putting together songs that live and die by the rise and fall of hill country mountains, by the bubbling of the moonshine still, by the light of a full moon, coyotes howling in the distance. 

This could be a shtick, it could be an act, it could be anything it wants, but until that’s revealed, if it ever is, then this is as authentic a sound as you’ll get, and more of it is needed in order for this music to survive.  Frank Fairfield is at the coalface.

Samuel J. Fell

(published in July issue of Rhythms Magazine)

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