Thursday, 13 November 2014

Frazey Ford

Òran Mór, Glasgow - 13th November 2014

Frazey Ford

Frazey Ford is a Canadian singer-songwriter. She was a founding member of the Be Good Tanyas. Her solo debut album 'Obadiah' was released in July 2010. This tour is to promote the new album 'Indian Ocean' which was released in October 2014
Frazey Ford
I first heard about Frazey on one of NoiseTrade's regular emails, this time offering the Frazey Ford Five EP with 5 selected tracks from Obadiah and Indian Ocean. I listened, downloaded for a nominal sum, then immediately purchased both albums. 

Indian Ocean is my favourite of the two albums at the moment. Part of what gives Indian Ocean its special appeal is the work of Al Green’s band, The Hi Rhythm Section, the architects of the famous singer's instrumental sound. Brothers Charles Hodges (organ), Leroy Hodges (bass) and Teenie Hodges (guitar), helped Green pen some of his most famous songs. Sadly, Teenie Hodges passed away in June this year during the recording of Indian Ocean. The album is dedicated to his memory. Listen to the track September Fields with The Hi Rhythm Section, recorded in Memphis.

On this occasion the band comprised: 
Craig McCaul (guitar), Frazey Ford (guitar and vocals), Leon Power (drums and vocals), Darren Parris (bass) with Sophia and Sarah Marshall (backing vocals).
Craig McCaul, Frazey Ford, Leon Power, Darren Parris, Sophia and Sarah Marshall
The venue was setup as all seated, unusually for Oran Mor, but this provided a rather intimate atmosphere as Frazey and her band took to the stage. She was dressed in an eye-catching glittery dress with feathery fascinator in her hair and engaged with the audience - a little shyly at first.

The opener was You're Not Free, a slow building storm of a song. This was a more stripped back version of the album track, missing the organ and horns, but McCaul made up for it on guitar.

If You Gonna Go was next. A song about love, loss and being free, from the Obadiah album. Interesting side note, the album takes its name from Ford's middle name "Obadiah". When she was born, her parents asked her brothers to choose her middle name; they decided to name her after their pet cat Obadiah that had recently run away.
Frazey said "We just did this one today at the Beeb" and You Got Religion was next. I think she and the band did a session for Cerys Matthews for BBC6Music - due to be broadcast on Sunday 10:00-13:00

Frazey took a little time out to chat to the crowd. Telling us that she and the band had been out and about in Glasgow "sampling the strange meats of our land". Craig McCaul was partial to the smoked salmon apparently, and Darren Parris loved haggis. Frazey pulled a face and said "we learned about that at school - minced guts. I could never eat that!" She went on to say she used to think the Scottish accent was cute, and after a day in Glasgow she still did.

She then chatted about working in Memphis with the Hodges brothers - The Hi Rhythm Section, and how their influence showed in the next song, Runnin'. We missed the organ playing from the album track on this live version, but once again McCaul's guitar filled that void beautifully.

One of her concerns when recording the album was that Charles Hodges, the organist was a full blown reverend minister, and one track in particular contained quite a lot of profanity. Frazey hoped he would not be offended. After listening carefully he apparently said "Well girl, you really told him!" and "Sing it and get him out of your system".  The track was 'Done' and that was next. Done tells of a relationship breakdown, the intensity of Ford’s words masked by her own delivery style and the gentle country rhythm of the band.

Frazey's singing style is unusual, the words often slightly slurred, scrunched together and almost impressionistic but delivered in such a soulful vocal. Think Rickie Lee Jones on a bender meets Cat Powers. That's not to say that the lyrics are throwaway, every line counts, as demonstrated again and again. 

September Fields, introduced as a "Gospel song about nature and Aretha Franklin" was particularly good live, with every member of the band and backing vocals in perfect sync.

While tuning her guitar, Frazey talked about growing up with the music of Bob Dylan. Not just the music, but regular lectures from her Dad on the various phases of Dylan's career - Acoustic, Electric and so on. She said her response at that time was "He can't even sing Dad!" but her views had changed with time. The next song was a Dylan cover, a Frazey favourite because of Emmylou Harris' vocals - One More Cup of Coffee. 
Frazey Tuning
I love the Desire album, and this song is a long time favourite of mine too, but Ms Ford and band did it justice. A slow paced masterpiece.

Another story from Frazey. Again it was about recording the new album in Memphis and how she had considered doing a cover of Al Green's Let's Stay Together, but the brothers Hodges fell out over one particular chord - and all stormed out of the recording studio. The sound engineer, another veteran of the Al Green days told her "Don't play that song. They've been arguing about that chord for nearly 40 years" so she and the remaining band members began rehearsing Weather Pattern. On about the third run-thru, the brothers began to drift back into the studio and picked up their instruments, gradually joining in. So she felt that Weather Pattern was a healing track, and that was next in the set. A delicate and deceptively simple song about mortality, it is one of a number of songs from the new album that use nature to express feelings of love, loss, anger. 

A "song about a crush" - I like You Better - was next, followed by Blue Streak Mama, and that was the end of the set. 

Encores were called for. Frazey and band took their time, but the crowd were insistent.

Firecracker (song about a character who burns fast) was a welcome "oldie" from Obadiah.
This was followed by my currently most played song, the title track from the Indian Ocean album. 

That was it. A really beautiful and very soulful set from Frazey and the band. Not to mention the layered backing vocals from the Marshall sisters.

Go see them if you can - you won't regret it.

-- Setlist --
You're Not Free
If You Gonna go 
You got Religion
Three Golden Trees
Bird of Paradise  
September Fields 
One More Cup of Coffee. 
Natural Law
Weather Pattern
I Like You Better
Blue Streak Mama
-- Encore --
Firecracker - Character who burns fast -
Indian Ocean

The support was:

Sophia Marshall

Sophia is from Leicester and spent the past few years as one-half of the now defunct band The HaveNots (Cooking Vinyl Records) with Liam Dullaghan, releasing a couple of albums - Never Say Goodbye and Bad PenniesNow flying solo, she is writing and recording new material for her solo debut album due for release in early 2015. 

Sophia was accompanied on stage by her two "able assistants" sister Sarah Marshall and Andy Jenkinson. Jenkinson and Sarah Marshall have worked together as two thirds of a band called ButterflyPolite. 

They started with Living Things, a beautiful track, with Jenkinson on bass and her sister Sarah on what looked like a guitalele (guitar/ukulele cross). The harmonies were lovely, but Sophia's voice stood out. 
Sophia and Sarah
Devil & The Hollow was next, Sarah on bass and Jenkinson adding some lovely riffs on a classical guitar. 

Sophia announced that she had some concerns about the song Missing Piece. "It always seems to get faster and faster" she said. Jenkinson drew some laughs when he shouted out "1, 2, 3, 4" in double-quick time. There were no problems with tempo increasing however and Missing Piece along with Sunglasses and Wasted Days were the highlights of the set for me.  

Sophia's songs and vocals kept the audience's attention and although her microphone could have been a little louder, she shone performing these newly written pieces. She sounds something like Linda Ronstadt meets Emmylou Harris and although initially a little nervous I felt, she settled as the set progressed and by the last three songs she really impressed.
Andy, Sophia and Sarah
Sarah's harmonies were gorgeous and Jenkinson's abilities on guitalele and guitar really added depth and interest to the songs. Underpinning it all was some lovely songwriting by Sophia. Overall this was an understated but really tight and very memorable performance by all three.

Sophia and Sarah returned later to perform backing vocals for Frazey Ford. A long night for them indeed.

I will look out for the release of Sophia's new album next year with great interest. In the meantime I bought the Limited Edition CD - According to her website "An exclusive three track CD will be available on the Frazey Ford tour only.  This CD will include two tracks from the very last and so far unreleased HaveNots album produced by Chris Mills and Ryan Hembrey in Chicago almost a decade ago. These tracks will not be available online.

--Setlist --
Living Things
Devil & The Hollow
Call Them By Age
Missing Piece
Wasted Days

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