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Tim Fite - Fair Ain’t Fair

Released on Anti Records, 5/6/08

An old friend of mine had one of those siblings who seemed to be about nine hundred years old, even when she was seven. She would come out with these crotchety remarks and snippy little quips that would cut you in half. I stumbled upon her playing with some neighborhood kids one day. I remember her walking up to the small group, grabbing the jump rope they were using and walking away. Someone yelled, “That’s not fair!” and without missing a single beat she shot back, “Fair is a carnival” as she threw the jump rope into a tree. She was right -- life ain’t fair.

Things happen beyond the boundaries of reason and civility. Tim Fite’s latest release Fair Ain’t Fair is certainly a nod toward that statement on a much larger scale. It is a practically unclassifiable social, political and economic review filled with more beauty, depth, and passion than most artists accomplish in the span of their entire career.

A year in the making, with Fair Ain’t Fair Fite has revolutionized the art of the bedroom recording. Known for scouring tape and record stores for bargain finds at under a dollar to sample on his home studio set-up, Fite has stepped up his game considerably since his last Anti release, Gone Ain’t Gone (2005). The word mature keeps popping up in discussions of the latest release but it’s more than that.

It seems that Fite has settled into this great unknown, the monster of his own creation. Not only does the album grow on you, but it also unfolds around you, enveloping the listener in the complexity of Fite’s inner anguish and strife. And as it unfolds you begin to see Fair Ain’t Fair for what it is, a complex, layered, socially conscious, hyper saturated view of the world through the eyes of an artist who truly listens, absorbs and then reflects upon the world around him.

There are countless influences within the album. Fite jumps from the obvious indie hip hop nasal flow to a pop hook, to a gospel style hymn, to a sea shanty, and to a freak folk sing-a-long. The influences are so many and so varied it becomes a real challenge to try to think of a genre to nestle this gem into. The second track “Trouble” begins with a Tom Wait’s style beat as Fite launches into an Aesop Rock-inspired verse. The song then opens into an all out seventies rock jam before ending on a driving chorus.

A full orchestra backs the next track, “The Barber”, with a simple banjo line in the lead. It then opens into something of an old score to a romance film -- complete with lilting violins and sighing woodwinds. The obvious single “Big Mistake” has everything a hit song should have, a catchy melody line, relatable lyrics and one heck of a hooky chorus. Next up? A Sea shanty/ Irish folk song! “Inside Man” is a short interlude with a droning accordion-style accompaniment to vocals you could hear at a pub in Sligo.

The album continues as such, crossing most of the musical boundaries record companies have worked so hard at creating to have a marketable package to feed the consumer. Fair Ain’t Fair is impressive to say the least. It is lovely, loud, angry and amicable -- it is all things a musician should strive to be, vast and varied in influence, style and approach. I look forward to seeing where Fite takes us next.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars