By Gabe Meline
There's no doubt that 'round these parts, old-timey music is more popular than ever. There's simply a tremendous number of teenagers and twenty-somethings interested in jigs, shanties, rave-ups and talking blues—which, like the swing revival of 1997-1999, is delightfully incomprehensible to said generations' parents.
Keep in mind that someone who's now 20 was born in 1991, and has parents who were most likely into C&C Music Factory, Bobby Brown, Bon Jovi and Richard Marx. Playing musical saw and washboard? That's just the sensible teenage rebellion to the late 1980s, with all its hairspray and spandex and Glasnost and over-the-top everything.
Twenty years ago, Brian Fitzpatrick wasn't listening to C&C Music Factory. He wasn't even really into a lot of punk, like his friends. Instead, he was listening to Neil Young and John Prine. I remember Fitzpatrick then, a rough but regal presence at hardcore shows in Sonoma County. He wore denim and spoke softly while everyone else was yelling as loud as they could in leather jackets. He was trying to start a band, too, though it wasn't easy finding other people into Bill Monroe at a Born Against warehouse show.
Eventually, Fitzpatrick found that band, Cropduster, who played every single dive bar, house party and dingy nightclub in town. Watching Fitzpatrick play Cropduster's version of Bill Monroe's "California Cottonfields" to a room of ex-punk rockers always emitted, to lift a phrase from John Prine, a sweet revenge.
In the last several years, Fitzpatrick is no longer the outcast in the room. In fact, he blends right in, nearly invisible—just another picker with an arsenal of twangy riffs and bent B-strings. Who would have guessed that the same guy who pioneered old-timey music before it was cool would all of a sudden have to prove himself before a jury of his peers?
Lost, Stolen and Strayed is Fitzpatrick's courtroom argument, and it should lay the case to rest. Fitzpatrick has recorded a brilliant album that meditates on carnival lovers ("Rollaway Town"), shore leave ("Shipwreck off the Coast") and Alaskan veterans ("Winter Town"), each tinged with sparse, eerie accompaniment and carried by Fitzpatrick's weighty, carburetor-like voice.
That quiet guy in denim in the back of the room? There's lot more in him than meets the eye, for sure.
B. C. Fitzpatrick plays on Wednesday, April 13, at the Last Day Saloon (120 Fifth St., Santa Rosa; 7:30pm; $5; 707.545.2343) and Saturday, April 23, at the Feed Barn (55 Middle Rincon Road, Santa Rosa; 8pm; $12).