Frank Fairfield may well be the best evidence we have that time travel is not only possible, but has already sent folks to us from the past. He looks, sounds, acts, and dresses like a Depression-era blues man, yet he’s a young man living in LA. His music sounds like it should come from a scratchy 78, not an iPod, yet if it wasn’t for YouTube and the internet nobody would have heard of him. While many musicians immerse themselves in a genre, then add a modern twist to it, Fairfield seems intent on keeping a genre alive, exactly as it was. And he’s doing a damn good job of it.
Fairfield may only be in his early 20s, but he’s already mastered several banjo, fiddle, and guitar, and learned a hefty repertoire of classic folk, country, and blues songs. He seems equally comfortable singing songs by Leadbelly and The Carter Family, or even old prison work songs. His eponymous album sounds like it should have been cut into wax, not recorded digitally, but it’s impressive nonetheless.
This is a classic folk/blues murder ballad, made famous by Leadbelly, but performed by everyone under the sun. Fairfield’s banjo and warbling vocals make his rendition fit among the best.
“I’ve Always Been a Rambler”
Switching to the fiddle, Fairfield shows he is as comfortable with a bow as he is with his banjo. This tune dates back to the 19th century, and you could imagine Fairfield sitting around a campfire playing it around the turn of the century.
“The Winding Spring/Nine Pound Hammer”, live on KEXP
“Short Life of Trouble”
“Nouveau Oldtime Jam” with Blind Boy Paxton and Dom Flemons