Yesterday was my 28th birthday. It’s a strange age to be, though I suspect they all are. You’re too old to qualify as young, but not nearly old enough to avoid eye rolls and the occasional kidney kick from people when you complain that you feel prematurely ancient. The born day mention isn’t intended to solicit belated comment section goodwill (that’s what Facebook’s for), but to articulate a frame of mind. Or to partially explain why New York’s Tompkins Square label is one of my favorites–with an entire catalogue geared towards myopic Methuselah’s or at least those momentarily displaced.
Frank Fairfield, the baby-faced bluesman in the clip above is originally from California’s agrarian Central Valley, but his marrow carries some ancestral Appalachian discontent. Nick Rallo wrote a piece on him earlier this year and I wrote something on Frank for a forthcoming LA Weekly article, so I’ll spare the biographical rehash. His excellent Tompkins Square debut was released last week and follows up similarly stellar releases from Tim Buckley (Live at the Folklore Center, 1967), The Red Fox Chasers, Charlie Louvin, and acoustic 12-string guitar god, James Blackshaw.
The label’s latest triumph is Fire in My Bones : Raw, Rare & Otherworldly African-American Gospel, 1944-2007, a four-hour, three-disc compilation of aching, beatific and bruising swamp-gospel. With the majority of the plaintive ballads released on obscure regional labels, the unearthed sacraments consist of timeless threnodies that should appeal to anyone with antiquarian inclinations. The collection comes out on October 27th and while the last thing I want to do is act like a shill, it’s important that people support archival efforts like this. After all, 28 is the new 82.