University of Chicago Folk Festival: Mike Compton & Friends, John Williams, Jason Frey & Co., Eddie C. Campbell, Frank Fairfield | Mandel Hall, University of Chicago | Fairs & Festivals | Chicago Reader
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University of Chicago Folk Festival: Mike Compton & Friends, John Williams, Jason Frey & Co., Eddie C. Campbell, Frank Fairfield 

When: Sat., Feb. 12, 7:30 p.m. 2011
Price: $25, $20 for seniors, $10 students; $55 for weekend passes, $45 for seniors
Southern California musician Frank Fairfield isn't merely a devotee of old-timey American music—in his hairstyle, his clothes, and most powerfully his performances, he pretty much ignores the past seven or eight decades of our musical history. He plays banjo, acoustic guitar, and fiddle on his self-titled debut, released in 2009 by Tompkins Square, putting his spin on essential traditional tunes like "Nine Pound Hammer" and "John Hardy." His voice—a clenched, nasal yawp steeped in pure mountain soul—crackles with vitality even as it sounds like it's preserved in amber. The urgency of his singing, his intense focus and confidence, and the authority with which he handles his chosen idioms make him seem less like a careful preservationist and more like a time traveler. His album may sound like an archival recording, but this music is exactly what he was made to play. Others appear to agree: Fairfield toured with Fleet Foxes in 2008, and this weekend he appears for the first time at the University of Chicago Folk Festival, one of the most respected events of its kind in the country (and one of the most hard-core). —Peter Margasak

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