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Frank Fairfield's latest crate-digging finds; plus McCabe's date

July 22, 2011 |  1:00 pm


If Frank Fairfield didn't exist, we would have had to reanimate him.

The cliche "they don't make them like they used to" is easily disproved when discussing the twentysomething banjo-fiddle prodigy. Fairfiled is signed to Tompkins Square Records, one of the finest reissue imprints going, and few musicians can channel the distant past with the fidelity and integrity of Fairfield.

From looks to slang to soul, Fairfield rambles like a dispossessed man permanently out of time, a Dust Bowl pilgrim unmoored from a rusting Packard. His sophomore album, "Out on the Open West," channels arcane days and cloudy nights. Voodoo folk that never fails to transport you to a different era or emotion.

He's playing alongside the Americans on Sunday night at McCabe's. If you're looking for a cheaper option than Stevie Wonder at the Bowl, this is your best bet. In honor of the performance, we asked Fairfield to share a few of the latest archival finds that have captured his imagination. Check them below the jump.

Frank Fairfield offers insight on some recent musical discoveries.

Kwaa Mensah and his Fanti Trio, "Jemu Ma Onka Buafu/Fiyai Wansma" (late 1930's). Wonderful guitar, bass marímbula and grader/clave record from Ghana. I wouldn't do well at trying to describe this record. If you'd like to hear one like it, I believe my friend Jon Ward has included a Kwaa Mensah record on his forthcoming reissue project for Dust-to-Digital, a four-disc pan-African box set. It should be very good.

Duque Palomino, "Con Chago Vega y Sus Muchachos"/ "Pijinos/Endredo Familiar" (early 1950s?). This is a tremendously rare record! It is a wonderful vallenato record from Colombia, on the small local label Tropical. Colombian records of this kind never show up; I don't know a record collector in the world that has more than a couple of good examples. Very lucky find, well worth the $2 I paid for it. If you'd like to hear something similar, you might try Alejandro Duran. He recorded for Discos Fuentes, and a few of his recordings have been reissued. Unfortunately, not very well, of course.

Alfred G. Karnes, "I Am Bound for the Promised Land" / "Where We'll Never Grow Old" (1927). This was an upgrade from my previous copy of this record, which was in very poor condition. Great singer, Bristol session record, can't go wrong. You can hear it, it's been reissued, although probably only by Document Records, whose transfers are so bad it hardly counts. I believe Yazoo has reissued "Called to the Foreign Field," another great title of his, and they always do good work.


Frank Fairfield premieres 'Poor Old Lance'

Frank Fairfield starts new label, releases rare old Gramophone recordings compilation, premieres new (old) MP3

More blood and guts than an N.W.A. album: 'Bloody War: Songs 1924-1939'

-- Jeff Weiss

Photo: Frank Fairfield. Credit: Frank Fairfield's Facebook page