She’s just a selfish bitch

According to old-school radio and music-biz experts, the shelf life of a recording artist should begin somewhere in the teens, and it must conclude, inexorably, by the artist’s mid-20s, with the age 27 being a “drop dead” date. The former may be negotiable, but that latter fact is fixed in place. The experts have decided.

One wonders, then, why one of this year’s best records is by a guy in his 60s. John Fogerty’s new CD, Revival, is, with the possible exception of one song, a knockout from start to finish; it’s one of those honest, straightforward albums that compels you to listen over and over. His voice sounds as good as it did with Creedence nearly 40 years ago, his guitar playing is sweet and the songs—including a couple of fine anti-Jethro Mussolini jeremiads—are quite swell. You get the record’s essential goodness right away.

But, even though Fogerty hails from El Cerrito, a bit north of Berkeley, this space is dedicated to local artists. And even though Fogerty is 62, he’s an anomaly; music arguably is a young person’s game.

Christopher Fairman is a long way from his 60s. In fact, he’s barely into his 20s. You regular readers know I spend a lot of time waxing enthusiastic about some of this town’s exquisite crop of wunderkinds, which includes Adrian Bourgeois, Ricky Berger, Agent Ribbons’ Natalie Gordon, Justin Farren and others. I haven’t, however, spent a lot of time raving about Christopher Fairman. But now that Fairman has completed his first real album, Born Broken, which he’ll release on his own label, Broken Carousel Records, perhaps it’s time to talk.

Unlike Fogerty’s, Fairman’s songs don’t grab you by the jugular; they’re more inclined to insinuate themselves into your consciousness when you aren’t looking. The heritage artist whose name Fairman’s music brings to mind most consistently is Nick Drake—like Drake, Fairman has the kind of ethereal voice that floats by, cloudlike, and his sweet, wistful songs aren’t so rigidly hemmed in by structural constraints, a quality that accentuates their ephemeral nature. This is gauzy music for lying on your back and watching the leaves fall down around you, not for getting into a Dodge Challenger and putting the pedal to the metal.

Live, Fairman—especially as a solo act—tends to get lost in the emotional wave of his music, eschewing structure for wherever the moment takes him. That quality is still present on Born Broken, but producer David Houston has given Fairman a modicum of structural constraint that allows his music some definition. The album, recorded over the past two years, also features a number of area luminaries—guitarist Mike Farrell, drummer Matt McCord, singers Natalie Gordon (on the dandy number “Selfish Bitch”) and Sandy Leeper, along with the multi-instrumentalist Houston. But it’s really Fairman’s show.

Fairman will be playing a release party on November 9 at Old Ironsides with Agent Ribbons—in their first local gig after a U.S. tour in Jerry Perry’s Honda Element—also on the bill. He’ll also be at the True Love Coffehouse, where his original paintings will be hanging on the walls, this Saturday, October 13; and he and Houston will play Luna’s two Saturdays later, on October 27. So check him out already.