Tim Fite - Fair Ain't Fair (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Tim Fite

Fair Ain't Fair (2008)


"Fair ain't so fair, fuckers / there's folly in the pork fat" starts the album, doubled vocals on strange harmonies, both from Mr. Tim Fite himself, building on glitch noises and sampling dialogue from, well, somewhere. "Roots of a Tree" might be a solid introductory opener to this album. "You can't hate the roots of the tree and not hate the tree," the song finishes from sampled dialogue, after the sparse strings and plinking keys built into a full form of traditional folk instrumentation.

Calling Fite a folk artist would ring as true as applying the label to Bob Dylan. Dylan fiercely rejected being called a folk singer because his music built from the tradition into a new modern take on roots music -- traditionalist and purist Dylan was not. Fite carries on the form by applying modern sampling and junkyard arrangements to simple song forms. "Trouble" and "The Barber" sway and shimmy under a lazy haze of banjos, guitars, fiddles and auxiliary percussion.

The songs are short vignettes, ranging from under two minutes to just over four. The subject matter varies from philosophical musings on the word 'hate' to absurdist tales about townspeople. Influences flop around like a fish gasping for air; it's not odd to hear a strict flamenco clap and a Civil War snare march apply themselves to the foundation of the percussion.

But while the uptempo songs show a flair Fite has for arrangements, it's when the album slows down to a sweet crawl that the songs make a strong impact. The near drone of "The Names of All the Animals" and its minimalistic slave driver drum paired with jingle bells evoke a form of music earlier than any Americana before allowing sparse horn arrangments to float above Fite's trademark dual singing.

Lacking in instant appeal, the album is a grower, seeping into the mindpsace days after you have your first listen. None of the songs are weak or warrant a desire to skip. It's a solid album, and a creative approach. Many listeners might want to make comparisons to the equally eclectic Tom Waits or Man Man, but in a thorough listening, Tim Fite's music is truly original.