Fairhazel

Hey guys, it’s Andy again: I get to introduce our last band. Here’s a good way to know you’re listening to an artist who’s got something going on. You’re 45-years-old and sitting in your living room with your 33-year-old wife and your 14-year-old daughter and you throw on a Fairhazel playlist and by halfway through the first song, everyone has stopped what they’re doing and is staring at the ceiling.

“Who is this?” 

“I like this a lot!”

“Reminds me a little of Death Cab.” (The kid is on a real Death Cab binge right now.)

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Here’s the thing: Hugh Macdonald, the man behind Fairhazel, is tapping into something special. It’s clear that Hugh is a writer’s writer and a storyteller’s storyteller.  He just also happens to be a talented musician with an ear for melody and a gift for building simple, restrained parts that layer together to form a perfect, complementary bed for his stories to inhabit. This combination of tight, purposeful prose wrapped in meticulously crafted, lush melody is the hallmark of Fairhazel and it’s why Fairhazel is one of the bands I’m most excited to see play the Underwater Sunshine Festival the first weekend of April.

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What do I mean when I say Hugh Macdonald is a storyteller?  Good question. Let’s look at the first two verses and chorus of the unreleased Fairhazel song “Eddie.”

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.

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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.  

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Thankfully Hugh doesn’t limit himself exclusively to writing beautiful vignettes of the world he sees around him, though he could easily do so and be still be making powerful, beautiful art. Hugh also occasionally allows himself to inhabit songs in a way that is strangely less confessional than it is commentary on how he sees the world around him affecting him, moving him, changing him. These songs are far from indulgent, but feel more like having a cup of coffee with a dear friend wherein the two of you discuss your lives and the world and try to make sense of the whole muddled mess. Like in the recently released song, “7x7:”


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 that you’ve escaped

And I’ll break my heart

Too emptied out to change

Again, the musical accompaniment to these gorgeous words is perfectly composed - sparse and evocative. It leads you into and around somewhere you feel like you’ve been before, a moment inside that someone else finally managed to capture and put down on tape in a song that seems to echo something you’ve felt for years but haven’t known exactly how to say out loud.

All of these songs evoke something special and I’m not sure I can put my finger on it yet. It feels like a soothing balm. A healing of sorts. An echo back from the void we’ve all been screaming into since we were old enough to realize what it means to be human and be alive.

The one thing I can say for sure is that if Fairhazel is playing anywhere close to you anytime soon, I don’t think you can afford to miss it. Thankfully, Fairhazel IS playing at the Underwater Sunshine Festival at the Bowery Electric on Friday night, April 5th at 6:30 in the map room upstairs. So here’s your chance to see what this is all about.

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

Frank Germano