Geneva Pattison asks whether Frank Fairfield’s indulgence in the past makes for a relevant contemporary musician…

Frank Fairfield’s dynamic musical dexterity paired with lilting Americana blue-grass sound, transports the listener from an existence ruled by technology straight to the rural Appalachian frontier of old. Hailing from California,the 28 year old grew up much like the musical spirits emulated through his music, wayfaring through life (albeit during the boy band riddled 90’s) with an authentic appreciation for the simple things. Fairfield is far from some phony hipster, revelling in their faux vintage lifestyles only to tweet about their disdain for the latest ‘gotta haves’ on twitter later, he’s the real deal. His roots flavoured music and Brylcreamed classic appearance serve as proof that he is a true advocate of the classic and practical.

Playing the banjo, the fiddle and the guitar, the multi-instrumentalist singer songwriter’s work tells tales of murder ballads, hillbilly living and esoteric ramblings only the dedicated can decipher. His tremolo tenor voice often imitates the flow and dexterous rhythm radiating from his instruments, adding to the naturalistic ‘down-home’ flair he possesses.

While earning his bread by playing street corners and small farmers markets, Fairfield was discovered by the curious and enthusiastic Matt Popieluch. Already a member of a signed band, Popieluch felt he couldn’t pass up the opportunity of furthering the career of this man who provided “the most authentic translation of music” he had ever seen. Fairfield had found a manager.

This proved a rewarding coupling, as Popieluch acquired a space for Fairfield as the opening act for the mesmeric Seattle folk collective Fleet Foxes. The Band were struck by Frank’s energy and pure musical wholesomeness, likening him to 1920’s musician Mississippi John Hurt born close to 100 years before Frank. It is an eerily accurate comparison, one might call it a centennial re-embodiment. Regardless, this opened up further doors for Frank and he was soon picked up by the record label Tompkins Square, located in San Francisco. Fairfield’s musical style aptly complimented the eclectic tastes of the record label’s creator Josh Rosenthal, both men burdened by the compulsive desire to stockpile records, two archivists of folk music.

His self-titled debut, released in 2009 saw  tracks come to the fore such as the rustic lilt Nine pound hammer and Call me a dog when I’m gone a song somewhat reminiscent of famed wartime musician George Formby’s style. Whether you’re a devoted fan of the newest most current incarnation of music or an avid follower of the sounds of old, Frank Fairfield seems to cater to both sides of the spectrum, distorting the opinion of ‘what’s past is past.’ Here we find…what’s past has a bright future.

Geneva Pattison
Arts Editor