Hear This: Frank Fairfield

October 10th, 2011, by

Contemporary culture has been obsessed with recreating vintage aesthetics for quite some time now, moving through the decades of nostalgia in movies, TV, fashion and of course, music. Sometimes, as in the case of NBC’s recently-canceled The Playboy Club, the re-hash seems to be nothing more than an excuse to milk a trend; but, for every handful of these, there’s one example of someone who seems to be doing it for pure joy.

Such is the case with Frank Fairfield, a Los Angeles-born musician, whose entire being seems devoted to the look, feel and sound of American roots music. Fairfield, who plays banjo, fiddle and guitar, dresses in loose trousers and buttoned up shirtsleeves, oil in his hair and a rope holding up his banjo, is the spitting image of a country boy from 100 years ago. His voice, reminiscent of greats like Hobart Smith and Bascom Lamar Lunsford, channels a time when music was a form of not just entertainment, but a vital historical and cultural record.

He’s equally well-spoken on the topic: “Record labels in America used to go to the different communities and ask them what they wanted,” Fairfield said in an interview with The Guardian last year. “Everyone got a record that reflected their own culture. But then the companies realized it would be more cost-efficient to create a new culture that everyone can try and follow – so everyone ended up drinking Coca-Cola and listening to Frank Sinatra and real culture got cut down like the trees.”

Fairfield is a devoted record collector, specializing in the rarest recordings on 78rpm, and released a compilation of his favorites called Unheard Ofs and Forgotten Abouts. In addition, Fairfield has two albums of his own recordings.

Here’s Fairfield performing Nine Pound Hammer.



  • Elaine Mattingly

    Apparently it takes someone from a major entertainment mecca to bring attention to the authentic musics of our great nation. Many of us who have been born and raised in places like Iowa know roots music intimately and also have a keen appreciation for the diverse nature of the music impulses of our American peoples. I guess the old saying is ever-true: “A stranger has no warts.” God love Mr. Fairfield for his passion for great American roots music; it’s always preferable for someone/anyone to notice. However, we live in a capitalistic system, so how does the money follow for the thousands of practicing musicians of the music? Passion is great, but it doesn’t pay the bills.

Last modified: October 17, 2011 at 2:28 pm