Arts & Crafts (label)
05 February 2020 (released)
05 February 2020
Frazey Ford, some-time Be Good Tanya, follows up 2014’s ‘Indian Ocean’ with ‘U kin B the Sun’ an album that expertly straddles country and western’s story-telling edicts, folk’s passed-on-down homilies and codes, funk’s clarion call to ‘be’ and gospel’s hallelujah redemption songs. The end product is a potent, political and personal soul-bearing stew.
Being the off-spring of ‘conscientious objectors’ (her parents fled to a commune in Canada in protest at the US’s involvement in Vietnam) is bound to instil certain morals, values and virtues and cultivate a do-right mind-set yet an upbringing not without its drawbacks (graphically autobiographical on opener ‘Azad’).
A fortuitous sharing of an Amsterdam venue with D’Angelo in 2017 inspired Ford to cover his ‘When we get by’. The neo-soul man’s languid ambience and sanguine aesthetics informing these new songs and allowing them to ‘happen’ and ‘evolve’ in a natural, unforced state.
Throughout the bass and drum dictate, dominate and drive the sound’s thrust, acting as the album’s beating heart with the tinkling, sprinkling ivories helping to supply and apply a warm 1970s AOR sheen.
At turns strident and measured, angry yet seductive, Ford warbles her carefully chosen words expressed via a controlled vibrato where Dolly Parton’s vulnerable defiance/stately compliance is a clear antecedent: all throat-trapped emotions caught betwixt and between, struggling to remain and/or be contained (philosophically oesophageal ?). Their eventual uttering a welcome, cathartic release.
The gauntlet throwing ‘Azad’ is hands-in-the-air neo-soul-funk wah-wah why not gamble, get out, be free ‘in the Western skies …go get what you want …it’s your life’.
What is the thing that ‘Money can’t buy’ Love? Flash car? A pint of milk? Money cannot buy anything that hasn’t had a monetary, fiscal price put on it, the ethereal, transcendent aspects of existence are earned externally to economics. Ford reels off a litany of reasons how and why ‘you got a life that money can’t buy’ with the song’s climax finding her fade into the distance as if tired and weary of pointing out the obvious to the wilfully oblivious. The good and best things come for ‘free’.
Standout is the Angie Stone influenced ‘Holdin’ it down’, with its message of stock-taking resilience: ‘I like to rest on the shore, before I go back and do more’ is it’s never-say-die out-cry.
The (arguably media-manipulated) inter-generational divide is addressed on ‘The kids are having none of it’. Ford issuing a call for action to dormant elders, exulting the younger breed for their refusal to sit and wait, exclaiming ‘they can’t be bought’. It’s evocative of Neil Young’s 1972 ‘Old Man’ albeit roles are inverted, this time ruefully looking down and back at the past, present and attempting to glimpse a future.
Closer ‘U Kin B the sun’ is a pagan echo, a love-lament to the empowering, nourishing, light and life-giving star. An illuminating finale oozing with psychedelic positivity.