Frank Fairfield
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Frank Fairfield

Cottage Grove, Oregon, United States | MAJOR

Cottage Grove, Oregon, United States | MAJOR
Band Folk Bluegrass


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This band has not uploaded any videos




(10) Frank Fairfield, Out on the Open West (Tompkins
Square). With his first album, the young California traditionalist
seemed as if he was on his way to becoming
his generation’s Mike Seeger: an old-timey musician
who knew everything and could play anything,
a librarian with such empathy for his archive of archaic
styles that in moments he might stand alongside
the old singers and players, as ghosts or in the flesh,
singing with them like a brother. This album, made up
mostly of songs that appear handed down but aren’t,
is proof that Fairfield is someone else: a wicked messenger
passing through town and leaving everything
slightly frayed, damaged, unfixed, every gaze deflected
toward an object just barely out of sight. This happens
in “Haste to the Wedding/The Darling True Love,”
with one foot in the twenty-first century and the other
in the eighteenth, neither foot staying in one place for
more than a few measures at a time, and in “The Winding
Spring,” where a banjo is its own reward. But with
the first notes of “Poor Old Lance,” you know you’re in
different territory. The melody, really a fanfare, is bent,
stretched, curved, seems familiar and teasingly out of
reach—you could spend a day playing the song over
and over, searching for the place you once heard that
melody before giving up and admitting that probably
you never did. The orchestration is glorious. Three fiddles,
Fairfield, Justin Petrojvic, and Josh Petrojvic send
the tune into the air and keep it there. Deep, slithering
undertones from Brandon Armstrong’s bull fiddle,
played with a bow, keep it rooted to the ground,
and sometimes pull the song under it. There is tension
from the first. The words are hard to make out, because
Fairfield’s elisions, slides, slurs, and half-finished phrases
are as much music as anything coming off the strings.
But you catch enough: something about a man going
down, a jailhouse, ten years. As this little play unfolds,
chorus by chorus, the whole country comes into
view, glimpsed as if over a ridge: a place of discovery, joy, despair, defeat, “a land of peace, love, justice, and no
mercy,” all enacted in a single prison cell. ?? - by Greil Marcus in The Believer Magazine

"Frank Fairfield: A One-Man Folk Revival"

July 29, 2010

Frank Fairfield may have an old folk sound, but he's just 24, and he hails from California's central valley — not Appalachia.

He plays banjo and fiddle music, and has opened for acts such as Fleet Foxes. With his Brylcreem-parted hair and high-waisted pants, he brings an old-time aesthetic to his old-time music. On his self-titled first album, released last year, he plays the standards of the American folk repertoire — songs that have been played by many artists over generations. He also writes his own songs, but stops short of calling himself a songwriter.

"I piece together a thing or two or mash up one thing with another or make something up," Fairfield says, "but I wouldn't call it songwriting. Ira Gershwin was a songwriter. I'm just a kid that writes songs."

Fairfield says he thinks the banjo's reputation has suffered as of late, but argues that it can be a sweet and warm instrument. He adds that playing American folk music was a natural place to start for him.

"I'm just picking up where [music] left off and just keep playing and see what happens from there," he says.

Fairfield's latest project is a compilation album, titled Unheard Ofs & Forgotten Abouts. It showcases the work of other artists he discovered in his personal collection of old 78s from around the globe. - NPR Morning Edition interview

"Frank Fairfield Out On The Open West Review 8.0 rating"

Frank Fairfield's backstory is the stuff of old American legend: A troubled vagabond who eventually made his way home to Los Angeles, Fairfield rooted through the city as a street musician, pulling bow across fiddle and hammering away at a banjo or acoustic guitar on corners or in flea markets. One afternoon, the right musician saw him play, became his manager, hitched him to a tour with champions Fleet Foxes, and landed him a record deal with one of the country's most trustworthy syndicates of old sounds, Tompkins Square. Now, he's the subject of a documentary and a touring musician with audiences in multiple continents. In a time where musicians and their managers attend workshops on going viral, and when the companies that own the music plan album leaks in advance, Fairfield simply played because he somehow had to talk about his feelings. Everything else just found him.

Fairfield's debut collected his interpretations and arrangements of 11 traditional tunes; Out on the Open West, the follow-up to his 2009 entrée, features three arrangements of traditional tunes, and they're all instrumentals-- the halting "Haste to the Wedding/The Darling True Love", the ebullient "Turkey in the Straw/Arkansas Traveler", and the foot-stomping "Texas Farewell". But the best songs here are Fairfield's own, and they're tremendous achievements from a guy who once said he wasn't a songwriter: "But That's Alright" is a sad, spirited bit of self-medication, the title phrase muttered in the chorus with the same kind of bitter resolve that tides people through strings of bad news.

On "Kings County Breakdown", he bows with a get-out-of-town abandon, like he's racing away from a hard week's work for his favorite vacation spot, or more likely, his baby. "Ruthie" is a tender, torturous goodbye. Fairfield is a strong player, but here, he smartly fumbles along the banjo's neck, the lament's lyrical depression mirrored by the broken technique. "Who will set her coffin? Lord, who will lay her down? Who will lay sweet Ruthie in that cold rocky ground?" he sings before answering that he will. The despair is overwhelming. Out on the Open West, then, not only cements Fairfield as a remarkable performer but also suggests that he's an evocative writer with his own stories to share.

It also puts Fairfield squarely in the folk tradition of collaboration. His self-titled debut was mostly Fairfield. On "Kings County Breakdown", though, he's sawing his fiddle alongside mentor and guitarist Tom Marion. That's young colleague Jerron "Blind Boy" Paxton singing perfectly content harmonies on "But That's Alright" and Old Crow Medicine Show's Willie Watson doing the cheery picking on the title track. But the most remarkable moment in Fairfield's slender catalog is "Poor Old Lance", a stunning bit of sadness that puts him squarely in the league of his heroes. Assisted by a trio of fiddle players, Fairfield sings with the sort of human moan that you can hear in Doc Watson's blues or any number of Harry Smith or Alan Lomax's field recordings. These troubles have never seemed more like Fairfield's own.

Fairfield is worthy of your consideration, even if you've never heard or considered the old-time music. He plays with a rare integrity, offering up his life in a way that does exactly what folk music must do-- it relates the world as the singer sees it, mixing sadness with sweetness, excitement with low-down and miserable depression. This has nothing to do with genre; hip-hop, jazz and rock all feel this way, too. Like the best of it all, Fairfield's music seems inexorably real and entirely necessary.
- Pitchfork Magazine


2011 Out On The Open West
2010 Unheard Ofs and Forgotten Abouts ( compilation of 78 recordings)
2009 Frank Fairfield



Frank Fairfield is a young man of 26 years residing with his wife in California. He plays a very unique and authentic style of old popular music appealing to crowds of all ages and musical tastes.

He’s played around the world having recently toured Australia for the first time, and will return to Europe for the third time for a summer 2012 tour. Frank’s performances are described as of another time, and as breathing life in to nearly forgotten or unheard of tunes. They command much vocal appreciation, applause and ovation from the audience. People have been known to break out into dance at his jigs.