Frank Fairfield CD Review AND Concert this Sat in Seattle
We’re proud to welcome the first guest blog from our friend and self-professed hillbilly banjo picker, Clayton Kelly Walter. This blog is a review of the debut CD from old-time wunderkind Frank Fairfield. We’ll let Kelly tell you about it, but please note that Frank is playing a killer show with Blind Boy Paxton and Baby Gramps THIS SATURDAY NIGHT (07/31/2010) at the Columbia City Theater.
THE REAL DEAL
by Clayton Kelly Walter
The real deal. I hear that a lot these days; especially when people tell me about some new old time band they like. “So-and-so is the real deal” or “their/his/her sound is the real deal”. After decades of hearing this type of comment, then actually experiencing the bands, I somewhat bitterly shake my head, or if in a crotchety mood, might roll my eyes. It’s not that I don’t want it to be true; I really do…but it rarely ever is.
So many times I’ve wanted to raise both of my arms, palms extended, and holler, “They are *not* the real deal! They’re wearing work clothes to play at a concert! No real old time musician would wear anything but their Sunday meeting clothes to play for their neighbors! Haven’t you ever been to the South?” this or some related comment usually directed at the laundry list of affectations many bands tote around proudly like boy scout merit badges.
Another comment that really gets me is, “They/he/she sound/s just like they were ripped right out of a 78 R.P.M. record!” Well, anybody that’s reading the reviews on the wonderful Hearth Music blog probably has a cd(or twelve) of 78 R.P.M. transcriptions, so you tell me…is there, if you were alone and free to admit it unpunished, one such band that you can think of? I suspect not.
The only musician today that I now feel accomplishes this in full is Frank Fairfield. His self-titled cd on the Tompkins Square label is the rarest of the rare; a new old time album that sounds profoundly old time. His guitar picking, his fiddling, his banjo playing, his singing…all are so genuine and so rustic, so raw and so…real. I had to stop everything that I was doing and sit, and stare, and listen.
At moments I felt like I was listening to a Dick Justice recording, or Frank Hutcheson or Blind Willie Johnson backing up Leadbelly’s singing…is that Emmet W. Lundy playing that fiddle? The tracks have the honesty of field recordings, mostly due to natural blend of influences in Frank’s playing, but also in the relaxed recording atmosphere of the album. There’s a natural feeling to everything that Frank Fairfield plays. A mesmerizing sense of immediacy; one doesn’t want to turn away, for fear of missing what comes next. The blues permeates every song on this album, yet it is rooted in that rural white country sound.
He looks the part, as well; Youtube has a number of his videos, and I’ll be danged if he doesn’t come off like a young Clarence Ashley. He’d blend right in to the Skillet Lickers or an old timey medicine show hawking magical tonics. He has the relaxed country vibe of a guy like Charlie Poole. I’ve yet to hear him live, but by all accounts this isn’t a show that he puts on…the Frank Fairfield on the record is the one and the same Frank Fairfield that you might meet on the street.
The “real deal”, if you will…
“Call Me a Dog When I’m Gone”: Frank Fairfield LIVE on KEXP
“Rye Whiskey”: Frank Fairfield LIVE on KEXP (“I think everything’s just as it should be”)