Opening for Fleet Foxes in Philadelphia a couple of weeks ago, California folk-bluesman Frank Fairfield took the stage looking like something out of a Dorothea Lange Dust Bowl photograph with his buttoned-up short-sleeve shirt and high-waisted trousers. When he sat down in an antique chair, grabbed his fiddle, and began to sing, he sounded like an ancient Lomax field recording. And then something remarkable happenedas he continued to sing, his face scrunched up into an expression of agony as if hed suddenly learned all at once that his life savings had vanished, his house had burned down, and his beloved dog had died. Switching between fiddle, banjo, and acoustic guitar for the next several numbers, that visage never retreated from his sweat-drenched, possibly tear-stained face. It was absolutely riveting. Almost like a bluegrass Henry Rollins, sans the tattoos and howling. Hopefully we get a similarly consuming performance tonight.
Sun., Oct. 19, 8 p.m., 2008