[Album Review] Fraea the Banshee- Road Side Attractions
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Release Date: March 23, 2016
Label: Independent

At first blush one may view the work of Fraea the Banshee as a pastiche of early 20th century African-American blues/roots music. This would be compelling enough, quite frankly, given that this was a significant formative period when the traditional folk sounds forged in the plantations and sharecropper farms were making their way into the nightclubs, to be synthesized and eventually give rise to jazz, blues and soul. But, as much as Fraea captures the spirit and potency of these times, ‘Road Side Attractions’ is equally a contemporary musical expression of her very own.

For one thing, the use of banjo introduces the element of bluegrass into the mix. This may suggest more of a folk singer-songwriter approach, but when Fraea sings with those ancient-sounding cadences and a gramophone-style resonance then it’s more the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday that come to mind. This gives you an idea of the framework within which Fraea weaves her magic. And, ah, what magic it is.

“Like a Fox” is an example of the tragic torch blues that Fraea often turns to, with the banjo lending a mournful Appalachian air. With a voice that lies somewhere between a classic gospel singer and a female version of Anthony, she relates her tale of spurned love. It all sounds timeless until she utters the words, “Grateful I’m still fucking standing,” at which point you are vividly reminded that this is 2016.

On “Cut Thumb”, “Hair of the Dog”, and especially on the near-ragtime “Just Dandy”, the banjo plucks a little more buoyantly, lightening the mood somewhat. However, the lyrics remains in the dimly lit backrooms of some down-and-out bar or club. It is the classic woman-done-wrong persona, and Fraea plays it to perfection.

‘Road Side Attractions’ can certainly be enjoyed as a sonic trip to a century ago, but it is far more satisfying if you come to appreciate the idiosyncratic touches that Fraea delivers in her voice, music and words. It is in reality a modern day gem.