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Frank Fairfield premieres 'Poor Old Lance' from new album 'Out on the Open West'

May 9, 2011 |  7:53 am

19959_264872501428_264871751428_3598481_805712_n Frank Fairfield isn't a ghost, but he should be. He has no business living here, surrounded by the Swedish House Mafia set, starlets and smog.

Maybe you've noticed him hiding in plain sight -- a pale apparition who used to busk at farmers markets and street corners, earning his living by singing desperate songs from deceased authors.

His banjo strums sound like they could snap necks, and his violin skills sound acquired at an Appalachian county fair circa 1924. Instead, he is in his mid-20s and grew up in the San Joaquin Valley. There are old souls, but Fairfield's is obviously ancient. He owns a Gramophone and a 16-millimeter projector. His voice sounds like it has spent the last eight decades soaking in scotch.

For a generation fractured by smart phones and smug ironicists, Fairfield's music feels artesian and fluid. The Fleet Foxes put him on first, offering an emphatic co-sign and a tour-support slot. Robin Pecknold understood that Fairfield is no put-on or poseur. So did the makers of the SXSW-selected documentary about him. Fairfield doesn't have a Twitter account, not because he's that consciously non-conformist but because it could never be his medium.

Download: (Pop & Hiss Premiere) MP3: Frank Fairfield: "Poor Old Lance"

What he has to say comes out in a song such as "Poor Old Lance," from his forthcoming sophomore effort, "Out on the Open West," released by New York old-time religionists Tompkins Square. It takes you back to Daguerreotype days. Violins and wobbly ragged vocals. It doesn't make you want to dance, it makes you want to do a jig.

Most Mondays, Fairfield can be found gigging at downtown's Redwood Bar. But he's been on the move lately, touring with Cass McCombs and preparing for a monthlong European jaunt. Before he skips town, he'll be preaching to the converted at the Topanga Banjo Fiddle Contest & Folk Festival on May 15. 


The Library of Congress builds the record collection of the century

Legend still looms as Robert Johnson's centennial approaches

Cass McCombs' nomadic lifestyle

-- Jeff Weiss

Photo: Frank Fairfield. Credit: Frank Fairfield