There was a time when being a musician meant being a performer. The two words were interchangeable. And in that time, to be a good performer meant internalizing the mood, the melody, the pain, the joy, and the ecstatic orgasmic release that sometimes only music can provide an inward traveler. If you think back on whom the great performers of pre-war America were, the names read like a roster of murderers and malcontents, disturbed individuals who knew only their instrument as a means to express the isolation they felt inside. For, in those dusty days, the musician was not the respected, mythologized artisan that he is today. The musician was the outcast — the slightly cracked, socially incapable, wandering loner who couldn’t hold down a job, a lover, or even a friend. These wayward daydreamers were cast to the fringes of society, only to be respected decades down the road when they emerged from the blast furnace of isolation with a repertoire of raw, unfiltered songs that smoldered from the core of their being. Son House, Leadbelly, Lonnie Johnson, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Dock Boggs, Roscoe Holcomb: these were not delicate men. If you walked into a bar while Son House was playing, you wouldn’t wax poetic (like I am now) about the emotional honesty of the performance — you’d be downright frightened. But in that moment of fear, you’d recognize his pain in yourself and that would be the root of your fear. And you wouldn’t stop listening until the last note was played.
When I saw Frank Fairfield performing at 3 Clubs in Los Angeles some weeks ago, I knew I was hearing something that I hadn’t heard, or felt, before. Here was a young man with a banjo, a parlor guitar, and a side-saddle fiddle playing songs that hadn’t been sung — and certainly haven’t been in vogue — in decades. In his quivering voice and his relentless, brutal attack on his instruments, I stood witness to the type of performer who earned his stripes on the stage and on the street. Not in pro-tools. Only just recently has he released his first mp3 (a live recording, aptly enough) for us to enjoy. More, Robin Pecknold of Fleet Foxes was duly impressed and invited Frank to open for him on their upcoming tour of the United States. Enjoy the track, but please don’t miss a chance to see Frank live if you can.
[ stream ] Frank Fairfield – Mole in the Ground
Bascom Lamar Lunsford – Mole in the Ground (original)
or [ download ] Frank Fairfield – Mole in the Ground