THE NEW YORK TIMES
Tunes That Are Steeped in an Old-School Style
By BEN RATLIFF
Published July 21, 2010
Big-framed, blustery Blind Boy Paxton and slim, straight-backed Frank Fairfield were passing time while tuning up their instruments. Mr. Paxton stopped in the middle, meta-style, to outline their roles in the performance. He’d be “buffoonin’,” he explained. He gestured to Mr. Fairfield. “And he’s the straight white man.” Nervous laughter all around, including a very authentic-sounding 1930s movie giggle from Mr. Fairfield.
It was Tuesday, and it was that kind of night. Both musicians, scholarly and tricksterish, are in their early 20s and from Southern California; both work in old-time music — Appalachian and Cajun and blues — playing guitar, banjo and fiddle. Both buttoned their shirts to the top. Mr. Paxton wore a vest, and Mr. Fairfield had parted his short hair neatly to the side. They presented nearly air-tight characters; they dived right into the 1920s: dialects, racial caricatures and all.
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