Frazey Ford | U Kin B the Sun | (Arts & Crafts)
4 out of 5 stars
If anything is clear about singer/songwriter Frazey Ford it’s that she takes her time. The Canadian songstress had already spent over a decade with the rootsy, bluegrass influenced Be Good Tanyas before embarking on 2010’s solo debut. It was another four years for 2014’s terrific sophomore effort (recorded with the legendary Hi Records studio musicians), and now six additional ones for this Prince-influenced title U Kin B the Sun to appear.
But it’s not just releasing new music where Ford works at her own pace. Her compositions also tap into a laconic, easy flowing, some might say lazy, vibe. That has held true on her previous discs and she doubles down for these eleven slow yet intensely moving soul tunes. Musically she harnesses a distinctly Southern approach somewhere between Isaac Hayes’ classic Hot Buttered Soul and the sultrier music of Ann Peebles, Beth Orton or Rickie Lee Jones.
Many tracks on this third effort reflect a similar low key yet percolating boil, such as the one on “Purple and Brown” and the not-ready-for-radio “Mother—cker.” But Ford sings with such reserved and sultry passion, somewhat like Laura Nyro, you can practically feel her swimming in the groove. That’s the case on “The Kids Are Having None of It” where her lyrics can be seen as a reflection on the day’s politics as she sings “All you deal is fear, the easy way to steal/The likes of you should never hold the wheel… The kids are having none of it.” The rhythm kicks up a notch to get somewhat funky, albeit in a discreet way, on “Golden” as Memphis infused organ and jazz guitar lock together bolstering her advising a friend to “Get higher and love yourself.”
It’s best to listen to these tunes with a lyric sheet handy. Ford slurs, moans, and smears her words, sometimes beyond recognition. Call her an impressionistic singer, akin to painters in that style that imply their subject without clearly defining it. While that works with the mesmerizing deep sonic ambiance, it’s nearly impossible to understand much of what she’s saying. And if you do, it’s still often unclear what Ford is getting at with “Everywhere”’s “You’re like a ten, over and over and over and over again.” Still, singers like Van Morrison have made a career out of a similar style and Ford makes it work, especially when she repeats the titular words with subtle gospel backing on the closing track.
Nothing is rushed. Listeners should prepare to hunker down for 45 minutes to absorb the hypnotic and often mesmerizing U Kin B the Sun in a single, uninterrupted sitting where it hits the hardest.