By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
In another corner, a worn-out collection of 8mm films stacks up modestly, waiting for Fairfield to buy a new projector (his old one burned out). An archaic analog television dating to the Green Acres era rests against a wall on a tiny stand. I ask Fairfield if he watches it much. “Oh no,” he replies with a laugh that sounds like he learned it from Laurel and Hardy. “You know, just to watch the occasional VHS tape.” If this is an act, the guy deserves an Oscar.
Any lingering doubts could be immediately quelled upon watching Fairfield perform. The effect is like a sepiatone still stepping out of 8 Men Out — his hair Brylcreemed to the side with a razor-blaze neatness, his features full of All-American angularity, shirt buttoned up his Adam’s apple, so tight that it seems if he as much as loosens his collar, a torrent of secrets will spill out. Then there’s that voice, that spellbinding voice, full of existential anguish, his face frozen in a fever grip as if each song were an unalloyed alchemy of psychic grievance.
Maybe Fairfield is some Billy Pilgrim case unstuck from his time, but I suspect that he’s mostly a response to it. With technology’s noose tightening via Twitter feeds and Facebook pages, MySpace and Blackberry Messenger, 1,000 cable channels and hundreds of thousands of blogs, Fairfield’s music feels like a water from a cold, clean river. This isn’t some watery Woodstock warble about “returning to the garden.” This is a solitary, spectral lament.
The question lingers: Why should you listen to an ostensibly callow kid whose junior high school years paralleled the boy-band era, when each year, the amount of high-quality archival music multiplies exponentially — to say nothing of the treasures Alan Lomax unearthed. Hell, even Fairfield himself can’t figure it out: “Why would anyone listen to me when you can hear Uncle Dave Macon or Wilmer Watts?”
But not only is he sustaining a tradition that’s long teetered on the verge of extinction, Fairfield also helps us to remember something atavistic in the marrow of our bones, some whisper from vanished prewar, pre-interstate days, when regionalism reigned, and personal communication, gestures, movements, and music were restricted to the limitations of our eyes. But it’s about more than that: It’s about doing what feels right. Frank Fairfield’s music feels right.
Frank Fairfield performs at Joe’s Great American Bar & Grill with the Dave & Deke Combo on Saturday, October 17, and at the Redwood Bar & Grill with Blind Boy Paxton on Monday, October 19.
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