3 minutes and 59 seconds. That’s how long it takes to walk from the door of our office at the hospital to where I parked when I got here 12 hours ago. I know that, not because I timed it and not because I counted my steps. After 12 hours, I’m too tired to count steps or set timers. But I still know it’s 3 minutes and 59 seconds.

“Life gets pretty heavy and I wish it was light...” A guy named Linford Detweiler in a band named Over The Rhine wrote and sang those words back in ‘96, I think. Good song. Good album.  Great band. Great line.

Some days are heavier than others of course, especially at a hospital. Some days you can’t seem to stop losing. Sometimes you wonder if you’re even helping anyone and other times you know damn well you’re hurting people all the live long day.  And yeah, a lot of what I do all day is hurt people but it’s always to help them get better. Still, there are days when, room after room and person after person, you just lose. Yeah, they’re losing worse and it’s The Big Lose. Capital B. Capital L. They thought you and your team could stop it from happening but you can’t always stop it and you know it.

And then you watch them realize it.

I was going to write this about how Fairhazel was one of the most exciting bands to come out of April’s Underwater Sunshine, because...well, they were. I loved them the first time they sang through my headphones way back when the year was still new and cold. Then they came and turned The Bowery Electric upside down and inside out with a live show that somehow both accentuated their quiet solemnity and, more surprisingly, showed their sharp teeth, as they knifed into these lush gorgeous songs and just made them bleed out in the room. Hugh Macdonald knows how to put a live band together, no question about that. Fairhazel’s music actually blooms when you hear it live.


But that’s not why you should be excited to hear Fairhazel return to the Underwater Sunshine Fest on a bigger stage this November. You should be excited because Fairhazel can make a song 3 minutes and 59 seconds long that - in the time it takes you to walk to your car after a long heavy bitter day of nothing but losing - can help you breathe again.

“7x7”. That’s the name of the song. It’s...I want to say magic here, but it’s so much more than that.

I think I found my home in silence

Found my peace in empty roads

With empty souls

Just looking for some peace of mind they cannot buy

Back in the busy city

Where the people are slaves

To the hours that make up night and day

But those that break free

Are cursed with the knowledge of humanity

I let myself go

If it makes it easy on the soul

Now I've freed my mind

If it rids me of all sense of time

And I'll fade away

If it feeds the feeling you've escaped

And I'll break my heart

Too emptied out to change

Fairhazel wraps these lyrics in a delicately constructed composition built around a melody that somehow seems to mimic the rhythm of breathing in and out. The production feels both sparse and lush at the same time, building from a deftly fingerpicking acoustic guitar and a simple bass line under Hugh’s vocal to a full band with echoing electric guitar, an urgent but quiet snare, and swirling reverb-drenched harmonies. It’s an incredibly well-crafted, intentionally meticulous song.

And on a really bad night, a song like that can elevate into something more than a song.

Check out Fairhazel’s Garden Session on the afternoon before their full set at the Bowery. Watch and listen to Hugh MacDonald’s storytelling as Fairhazel perform “Eddie” in a Garden Session.

Eddie was a good man,

Honest and hardworking

Never gave love a try

He was a night crawler working at the corner shop just to try and get by

He dreamt of the city getting out of Mississippi

And finding somewhere less like home

But his father was a real man never told him that he loved him

Told him wait till you get older

How will I get out if I am stuck to my seat?

How will I get out if you put your chains on me?

He saved every penny

Sold local kids some whiskey

For a ticket on the nine fifteen

After months gone undecided

There was something ‘bout the timing

Growing weary of the small-town scene

Eddie took the night bus

Leaving nothing but a line

Reading “Mother I am leaving home”

He packed his father’s Walkman

To avoid bad conversation

And slipped into the great unknown

How will I get out if I am stuck to my seat?

How will I get out if you put your chains on me?

What a perfect snapshot told in prose. We all know this character, or a version of this character. Hell, some of us are this character. The music behind this story rises and falls with the story in a way that pulls us in and along and makes us hope for the best for Eddie. And when Eddie meets Jane in the third verse, we all feel that weird sense of hope and, at the same time, the fear that it’s a false hope. That hope in the fantasy that love can save us alongside the lived wisdom that knows that sometimes, love doesn’t save us. Sometimes it’s trading one set of chains for another.


And the thing I love most about Hugh is that he doesn’t tell us how it ends. It’s a snapshot. A moment in time. Maybe it’s everything that Eddie needed. Maybe Eddie just carried his problems to a new location.  Fairhazel has the restraint not to answer that question for us, because he knows that lives are never simple stories and that fairy tales are for children. Real life is complex and difficult. Sometimes you get away and it’s everything you dreamed of and sometimes you’ve just changed zip codes. It’s a beautiful bit of restraint on the writer’s part and I love him for it.


Check out “Man in a Cafe” too. It’s clear, even in these stripped-down performances, Fairhazel knows how to find a moment that feels universal and familiar- characters and stories that come straight out of day to day life- and elevate them into something more than their simple DNA would let you believe they could be.

I hate to just insert one more song but you HAVE to see the first song they played in their Garden Session. “In The Morning” is simply breathtaking and I can’t finish this piece without showing it to you.

Maybe that’s not magic and maybe it is. They’re just words, after all. It’s certainly something truly special and definitely something you don’t want to miss this November at Underwater Sunshine Fest, 3.0.

Fairhazel’s site
And on the Facebook
Plus the ‘Grammmm