By Grant Britt
Imagine a mellow Joe Walsh, soulful and funky. Sam Frazier was the main progenitor of a sound called soulbop, syncopated Caribbean riddums with ah soul overlay overseen spiritually by Van Morrison and Little Feat, created and nurtured in local Greensboro, N.C. group Tornado twenty plus years ago. On his own, Frazier is a bit more restrained in tone, but not in content. His latest, eponymous release is a collection of love songs- after a fashion. Obviously a fan of tough love, the singer/guitarist confesses getting whomped by love and lovers, but manages to get in a few pretty good licks of his own.
Although Frazier may be embittered by his romantic escapades, he manages to keep a sense of humor, though admittedly an acerbic one. “You Can Call me Baby,” he tells one love interest, but before things get too snuggly, he adds the kicker: “on the way out of town.” But Frazier proves he’s not a completely heartless bastard, even going to the trouble to serenade his somewhat loved one with some beautiful fret work as traveling music for her to hit the road with.
Frazier’s got his Joe Walsh mojo working hard on “Clank of Romance,” which could have slid right off one of the early Eagles albums. In his worldview, romance clanks about, raising hell in the middle of the night, making everyone involved suffer from temporary insanity.
He switches gears for “Anything For You,” an old-fashioned country and western vehicle that gallops along at breakneck speed. “There’s one thing I won’t do/I’d never, never do/and that’s the thing I did to you yesterday,” Frazier confesses in an intimate whisper before ripping through a slab of ferocious fingerpickin as fleetly and furiously as Marty Stewart’s lightnin’ fingered Fabulous Superlatives bandleader Kenny Vaughan.
The record was produced and recorded by Britt “Snuzz” Uzzell, lead guitarist in the ‘90s pop band Bus Stop, which launched the career of pianist Ben Folds and featured his brother Chuck on bass, Evan Olsen on lead vocals, and drummer Eddie Walker, who also plays on Frazier’s album. Uzzell appears throughout the album on guitar, bass and vocals.
Despite Uzzell’s presence, this is no pop album. Frazier’s stuff isn’t easily pigeonholed. Don Henley with the soul of Van Morison comes close. His guitar playing is just gorgeous, although he’d probably punch you if you told him that to his face. Just go along for the ride, but be sure to fasten your seat belt- you’re in for a bumpy, but interesting trip.