Remember when you’d hear Cat Power sounding just a little bit southern gospel, just a little bit Hi Records soul – slightly sinewy-funk backbeat there too. But it was never quite believable, just a version of music-as-recovery-step, another step towards trying to be a pop star. Well – if you want to hear the correct version of that sound, a sound that sticks, you should hear the latest from Frazey Ford. It’s her first solo album in nearly a half-decade, but you know her (hopefully) from her work with The Be Good Tanyas – their recent career-highlights album a reminder of the magic that was summoned, with Ford so often the ringleader there.
Like Chan Marshall before her, Ford has in fact aimed for that Al Green/Hi Records sound by using some of those key players – but the result, this time, feels lived in and loved, not just tossed off as a that’ll-do sound and feel.
There’s something so very real about this – the heartbreak that Ford can summon with her voice, the country-soul grit and those back-in-the-saddle laidback grooves that aren’t ever quite country or soul but so happy, so perfectly, resting right in the middle.
A little scratch of Ford’s own guitar here and there, some of the very last work you’ll hear by the wonderful Teenie Hodges, and some calm, soothing horns (You’re Not Free) give this the feel of a Greatest Hits collection. Again, Cat Power was hoping for that, but had to title it to put the thought in your mind. This just flows, a set of no-filler songwriting, some of the best pieces Ford’s created – they all need her voice, and are built for that, around that. But they are imbued with this great energy from the Hi Records rhythm section.
If I’d had the chance to hear this in 2014 it would have been on my best of the year list. Only getting to it now ensures it’ll have a place in the collection for 2015 – and with its timeless feel it’s a record you’ll want to hear, well, forever. Magical stuff.