Dan Auerbach Helps Soulman Aaron Frazer Take Center Stage On ‘Introducing…’

Aaron Frazer | Introducing… | (Dead Oceans/Easy Eye Sound)
4 out of 5 stars

If you were a key member/songwriter in a band with someone else’s name in the title, you’d want to release a solo album too. Such is the case with drummer/songwriter Aaron Frazer. Most folks would have to scour the often non-existent credits of his primary band Durand Jones & the Indications to know how vital Frazer is to their sound.

The multi-talent not only wrote or co-penned nearly every track on The Indications’ two Colemine albums, but provided vocals (when Jones wasn’t featured) and handled drums. Now it’s time for him to step out from the shadows and into the spotlight.

Frazer acquits himself with the confidence and poise of a seasoned pro. It doesn’t hurt having The Black Keys’ frontman and Easy Eye Sound label honcho Dan Auerbach in your corner to ensure the final product is up to the high standards already set with Easy Eye imprint acts like Yola, Shannon Shaw and Kendell Marvel.

It’ll take about 30 seconds into opening track “You Don’t Wanna Be My Baby” to realize that even when Frazer goes solo he isn’t diverting substantially from the approach he is comfortable crafting with The Indications. This is pure retro soul with an emphasis on crisp drums, R&B strings and dreamy backing vocals all supporting Frazer’s stunning falsetto. Auerbach is a major ingredient, wearing hats as producer, co-writer of every song and guitarist, although you wouldn’t know that without perusing the liner notes. That’s because Frazer is clearly the star of this show.

From the tight funk of “Can’t Leave It Alone” to the jittery backbeat sparking “Over You” (the first single) and the smooth, radio friendly cruising song “Ride With Me,” Frazer twists and turns his sweet, high pitched voice in a variety of directions. The closing gospel with blues overtones “Leanin’ on Your Everlasting Love” brings even more diversity to a set that never feels repetitious or predictable.

Soul fans will immediately recognize the strong, inescapable really, vocal and intermittent compositional similarities to Smokey Robinson. It has been a long time since the Miracles’ frontman has been in prime voice and/or released new music as striking as what’s here. That leaves a void Frazer handily fills.

The dozen tracks are credited to co-writers so it’s impossible to say how much input each had to the lyrics and music. But Frazer’s drums that kick off selections such as the rump shaking “Bad News” show he is integral to the overall vibe and the creative arrangements.       

It’s unclear if Frazer intends to return to his auxiliary status in the Indications after fronting this impressive project. Regardless, he has released one of the early contenders for finest debut of 2021. The appropriately titled Introducing… justifies the spotlight status he clearly deserves.       

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