Music

Paula Frazer: A Place Where I Know: 4 Track Songs 1992-2002

Jason MacNeil

Paula Frazer

A Place Where I Know: 4 Track Songs 1992-2002

Label: Birdman
US Release Date: 2003-09-30
UK Release Date: 2003-11-10
Amazon
iTunes

Paula Frazer has made a name for herself when it comes to dark tales and the South. Growing up in Sautee Nacoochee (say that three times fast!), Georgia, Frazer grew up on everything from Roy Orbison to George Gershwin. Working with the band Tarnation, Frazer honed her chops. It's that musicianship which has made her career so appreciated but only by so few. Now, looking back at the past decade, the singer has compiled this series of recordings that are basically her, her instruments, and a small room to maintain the barren feeling. There are 15 songs here (including three videos as a bonus), and none of them paint a happy-go-lucky portrait.

The subtle hiss of the recordings only give more credibility to the songs as "The Only One" begins the record. Sounding a tad like a later day Rosanne Cash, Frazer has a near ethereal sound in her voice that rarely stretches itself. "I'll pretend I'll hold him near," she sings with a phrasing and melody Roy Orbison could certainly relate to, particularly the moody guitar arrangement. The simplicity and economical use of words are often her strength, never mincing words. "Halfway to Madness" has harmonies that could be mistaken for Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris together. The constant guitar propels this tune along but with no sense of urgency. The closing high harmonies won't send chills up one's spine, but the song contains a thought that should pass your mind. "I listen to a voice of reason while I sleep / It tells me to question all the promises I keep," she states before returning to the chorus.

"An Awful Shade of Blue" won't be mistaken for "Whiter Shade of Pale" anytime soon. Here Frazer explores more of that Johnny Cash-meets-Spaghetti Western guitar, making one feel as if they're riding off in the sunset. A lengthy guitar solo is mixed with her angelic voice, making it a very appeasing homage to Ennio Morricone's theme to The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. "Idly" begins with a distant guitar buzz or sound, recalling Wilco's Summerteeth. Frazer sees a bit of hope in this song, but it's not nearly enough to for any to deem the track cheery. This is also the first song that doesn't seem quite complete -- the abrupt ending not fully flushed out. "Long Ago" continues on this path, bringing to mind the Handsome Family if they ran into a pot of gold. Other influences, possibly Judy Collins, are also brought to the fore.

While most people won't find the thread between sixties folk and the current Americana, Frazer seems to grasped that thread and used it often. Not too morose but basically sharing her naked feelings, she is able to show more of herself than any studio recording ever could. If there's one miscue on the album, it might be "The Hand". Whether it is the tinny sound of the recording or the fact the busy nature of the song doesn't lend well to a 4-track, a lot of the feeling is lost. Some guitar solos are quite nice (especially the bridge), yet it just doesn't do enough justice to the song. The instrumental coda is beautiful though, a Middle Eastern spaghetti western tone.

The title track tends to go over prior sonic territory, but gets the desired effect. Frazer then moves headlong into "Taken". The song is a slightly up-tempo track in the vein of a depressed Belle and Sebastian. "Once when we were children we were laughing time was passing, now it's gone," she sings about days past. A keyboard or some sort of programming is used here, with the sixties psychedelic organ holding up the song's rear. "We Met by the Love-Lies-Bleeding" only solidifies the fact that Frazer can sing, play guitar and hold a simple melody for all its worth. The last of the non-video bonus tracks is "Deep Was the Night", another relatively up-tempo song with ethereal exercises afar. The trio of bonus tracks doesn't dissuade the listener. Paula Frazer might never have a big hit, but listeners should be pleased with a fine and sparse account of her past decade's finest.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

Keep reading... Show less
8

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less
7
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image