Album Review: Frazey Ford glides solo on Obadiah

Frazey Ford - Obadiah

Frazey Ford
Obadiah
Nettwerk, 2010

Each successive track on Frazey Ford’s Obadiah plays out like kindling added to a slow-burning fire. The British Columbia-based singer-songwriter, a founding member of folk trio the Be Good Tanyas, remains true to her roots while expanding on her sound in her solo debut album. Obadiah, released in July 2010, is 13 tracks of introspection on Frazey Ford, the artist.

Canadian born and raised, Ford spent much of her early childhood living in a commune as the daughter of American draft-dodgers during the Vietnam War era. If that experience alone weren’t fodder enough for the earthy artist’s style, Ford drew further inspiration from the likes of ’70s soul artists Al Green and Ann Peebles. She aims in Obadiah to connect the ’70s soul she knew and loved growing up with her own cocktail of folk, bluegrass, gospel and soul.

Obadiah‘s opening track “Firecracker” is Exhibit A. Ford skillfully weaves her folk sound — supported with banjo-plucking and a stop-and-go pulse — together with vocals that are reminiscent of gospel mixed with a hint of country. Background vocals frame Ford’s exquisitely as her songbird cries of “Hallelujah” lift the heart.

“Lay Down With You” and “Lost Together” typify the more soulful tracks on Obadiah: slower, expressive and set against a backdrop of soothing vocals. In a voice like melted butter, Ford pleads, “help me forget myself for an evening.” Served up fireside with a glass of red wine, this album exudes tranquility.

The sassier side of Ford surfaces in tracks like “I Like You Better,” that break loose from the typical soulful ballads spread across the album. The tempo picks up so that idle swaying gives way to toe-tapping. An electric bass brings a touch of island reggae flavor to the mix; it’s just enough to feel a hint of sand between the toes. In the jazzy “Blue Streak Mama,” Ford lets herself break away from the prose to do some straight-shooting: “Think you’ve got something, you’ve got nothing all, nothing at all.”

Start to finish, Obadiah is a sultry album. While most of the songs boast a certain sensuality in their steady cadence, the consistently mid-paced beat could have been used more sparingly. That said, this debut is a solid showcase of Frazey Ford’s talent as a singer, songwriter and, now, solo artist.

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