Rebecca Frazier is a triple-threat performer. She sings with great conviction and polish in a manner and voice capable of both soft, half-whispered asides and of power and strong emotion. She plays guitar well enough to have been on the cover of Flatpicking Guitar Magazine. And she writes songs that often break free of conventional imagery and are nicely varied. If you haven’t heard of her, say, from her time in the Colorado band Hit & Run, this, her solo debut should be an eye- and ear-opener.
The recording opens with a crisp, bluegrass adaptation of Neil Young’s “Human Highway,” and a few tracks later rips gloriously through a slightly reworded version of “I Ain’t Gonna Work Tomorrow.” Beyond that, the songs are all Rebecca’s or co-written with her mandolin-playing husband, John. “Better Than Staying” is cast in an old-time dance form, both musically and in the arrangement of the language. It’s about moving on, either people leaving us or our own departure. The ultimate leaving comes in the fifth verse, but once there, there’s no need for restlessness.
That’s followed by a slow, slightly funky “When We Fall.” As in “Better Than Staying,” the imagery shifts from the worldly to spiritual. In this case, the later verses focus on Man’s fall from Grace, giving a twist to the line …does it break when we fall. A bit bluesier is “Love, Go Away From This House,” which has a work-song quality that underscores the song’s mood. The album ends on “Babe In Arms,” one of the most poignant songs in recent years. Taken in a mountain lullaby style, the theme is the loss of a child, a tragedy the Fraziers are coping with.
Three instrumentals, “Virginia Coastline,” “Clifftop,” and “40 Blues” showcase Rebecca’s, clean, clear and dynamic guitar skills. Any of those mentioned above can be considered highlight tracks on an album of very good, well-played material. (Compass Records, 916 19th Ave. S., Nashville, TN 37212, www.compassrecords.com.)BW