Jad Fair

There are plenty of performers who rock critics compliment by using the label "primitive," but few if any can hold a candle to the greatest American rock primitive, Jad Fair. With his fantastic and increasingly influential band, Half Japanese, or as a solo performer, Fair has constructed a prolific and extremely interesting career. He writes and records songs that display an uncomplicated emotional directness, unselfconscious (almost hokey) charm and warmth, and a genial simplicity that is simply beyond words. Although Fair's later recordings are certainly more accessible -- in some ways resembling those of another great American primitive, Jonathan Richman -- his stock-in-trade is still the ability to compose and play music without any discernible (i.e., traditional) musical talent. Although he has "played" guitar since the mid-'70s, Fair, according to past and present members of Half Japanese, still can't name a chord, plays riffs almost by accident, and wouldn't have it any other way.