Frank Fairfield wants nobody to know much about Frank Fairfield, which is his right, up to a point. His debut contains no bio, no liner notes, and damn few credits. From an online article I've gleaned that he bicycles around Los Angeles (in a suit, no less), setting up shop on street corners with the banjo, fiddle, and guitar shown on the CD cover.
A man who may be the only bicyclist in all of L.A. (in a suit, no less) is clearly dedicated to whatever he's dedicated. I find myself worrying someone will make off with his stuff, but that's his call to make. And maybe, just maybe, risk and delicacy form crucial aspects of his overall approach.
The music? Sounds a lot like old 78s, with better production values of course, although the compact disc assures you this is a “monaural recording.” Fairfield sings in no affected yawp or drawl. He's almost eerily straightforward. His girlfriend may “Call Me a Dog When I'm Gone,” but she'll change her tune when he shows up with folding money. That's how it's always been. That's how it always will be. The “Dying Cowboy” goes down for the count slow and painful. That's how people have always gone down. We just stopped talking about it starting around the time those old 78s came out.
I can't say where Fairfield is going next, but I'll urge you to get this while you can. The CD case is cardboard. My copy is now frayed and warped from rain, damp, and backpack pressures. This, too, may well (just maybe) form part of his plan.
Frank Fairfield performs at the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach on February 22.
- Album: Frank Fairfield (2009)
- Artist: Frank Fairfield
- Label: Tompkins Square
- Songs: (1) Nine Pound Hammer (2) Call Me a Dog When I'm Gone (3) Blackberry Blossoms (4) Cumberland Gap (5) Dying Cowboy (6) John Hardy (7) To the Sweet Sunny South (8) Train That Took My Girl from Town (9) Hesitating Blues (10) Fair Margaret and Sweet William (11) Old Paint