Frank Fairfield and Eric the Red

September 13th, 2011 · No Comments · By

In the five or six years that I’ve been back in Virginia, I’ve seen and heard a lot of musicians — usually at the Tea House — who play what’s loosely described as “old-timey music.” Although the more serious practitioners will debate the specificities of that particular term, I think most of you know what I’m talking about: young folks who play music influenced by American folk and jazz idioms from the 1860s-1940s, and dress and sometimes talk like more someone from their great-grandparents’ generation rather than their own. Sometimes those musicians are totally amazing, and sometimes they’re not.

You also may have noticed that some of those musicans present themselves a lot more credibly than others; I’m not saying that serious period-accuracy is the sole mark of quality amongst these musicans, nor that authenticity is the only important aspect of their work; I’m just pointing out that there’s often a correlation between their attention to their personal appearance and presentation, and their dedication to their craft and quality of the results. You know what I mean; some of these folks look like children playing dress-up in their grandparents’ hats and suspenders, their tattoos and internet-jokes giving them away — whereas at the other end of the spectrum there are the fellows who almost seem like time-travelers, those who somehow seem to be carrying on traditions long ago thought dead, those whose manner and means of carrying themselves seem like they’ve stepped directly out of another era; they seem as unavoidably anachronistic today as the appearance Jack Black in “King Kong” or Harvey Keitel in “the Last Temptation of Christ.”

Frank Fairfield and Eric the Red are both Time-Travelers. What’s more, they are both dedicated and captivating performers, and I’m highly encouraging you all to go check them out at the Tea Bazaar tonight!

Eric the Red is someone I’ve been a big fan of for a long time; we try to convince him to play shows in town more often, but he lives in his log cabin and works his job as a stonemason and is hard to reach by phone or internet, so he only ends up playing here in town about once a year, on average. You may have heard his sets opening up for Jonny Corndawg or Mountain Man, and if so you know firsthand how special his music is; he’s got a wonderfully soulful but almost goofy-sounding deep voice, and his songs are honest and playful and wonderful.

Frank Fairfield was someone I’d never heard of until recently, but I met him yesterday and saw him play a few songs, and it was pretty excellent.¬† He’s from the West Coast, reportedly he was playing as a street performer until he was discovered and signed to the well-regarded Tompkins Square label (home of performers ranging from Charlie Louvin to James Blackshaw); he’s currently touring the US, playing concerts and buying old 78rpm phongraph records¬† — if you know somewhere that has a good stash, let him know! I believe he’s headed for a reported treasure trove in West Virginia next…

He played an unannounced surprise show at The Garage last night, which drew an appreciative crowd; I had to leave after the first song to catch the Tea House show, but what I heard made me really excited to catch his full set tonight. He played fiddle and acoustic guitar and sometimes sang, giving interesting historical and discographical information about all of the songs as he played them; reportedly he entertained everyone for over two hours; Steven remarked afterwards: “That was prolly [sic] the best show i’ve seen since i’ve lived here.”

So here’s hoping Frank gets a similarly large and attentive crowd again this evening; the show’s starting at the Tea House around 9pm, and the cover charge is a very reasonable $5.

{Fun Fact: I met Frank yesterday afternoon while I was on my way to get a haircut, since I’m due for a new drivers-license photo soon, and while we were discussing the subject I asked Frank who cut his hair, since he had some a perfectly pomade-ed ‘do rarely seen on fellows of our generation. “Oh, I can’t afford a barber,” he said; “I cut my own hair.” He turned around to show us the perfectly trimmed nape — the hardest part of one’s own hair to cut — and I remarked to David, “wow, he does know the old ways.” }

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