It's hard to argue with the kind of talent that Frank Fairfield has at his fingertips. His virtuosity on the banjo is clear enough when you listen to any one of his out-of-time Appalachian-tinged tunes, but until you see the former L.A. busker play with your own two eyes, you can't possibly grasp this:
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The 26-year-old's self-titled debut just came out on Tompkins Square (with Foreign Born/Fool's Gold's Matt Popieluch managing him), and Fairfield had this to say about the song, "Nine Pound Hammer" (via My Old Kentucky Blog):
"[This] tune [...] is one of the variants or rather offshoots of tunes surrounding the story of John Henry: the steel driving song, the 'Nine Pound Hammer.' This is a very well known number, It was 'traditionally' a call and response work song to keep the track liners and spike drivers in pace. I play it more as a ballad/song in much the same way as 'John Henry' has been turned into a ballad although it's original purpose was nothing of the sort. This is the only tune with such quick banjo playing on it, a type of three finger fitting of my own, tuned quite particularly to the key of D."
Take the song home with ya: Frank Fairfield - "Nine Pound Hammer" (MP3)