Release Date: Oct 14, 2014
Record label: Nettwerk
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter
It's been four long years since singer-songwriter Frazey Ford graced the world with a full-length album. Indian Ocean is the followup to her critically acclaimed debut (2010's Obadiah), and it follows in the same gospel-soul vein, but this time around Ford's tunes had a boost from some of the masters of soul in the heart of Memphis, Tennessee: Al Green's band, the Hi Rhythm Section.Indian Ocean is textured with organ undertones, punchy horn sections and laid-back bass lines. And of course, overtop is Ford's instantly recognizable voice, with its delicate power, warped vowels and quaintly disrupted diction.
Whatever you thought (or didn’t) about Frazey Ford’s previous outfit, folk trio the Be Good Tanyas, it’s worth approaching her second solo album as a stand-alone work. Ford recorded it in Memphis with Al Green’s old band, the Hi Rhythm Section. The result is a minor country-soul gem, full of lovely and deeply atmospheric instrumentation gilding Ford’s alluring vocals.
The second solo long-player from the Canadian folk-pop songstress and former Be Good Tanya, Indian Ocean finds Frazey Ford enlisting the help of the legendary Hi Rhythm Section, who were Al Green's not-so-secret weapons and the prime architects of the Memphis soul sound during the Stax era, and kicking out a warm, breezy, and not surprisingly soulful set of R&B-kissed country-pop confections that sound as timeless as they do of a particular era. Falling somewhere between Cat Power, Carole King, and Linda Ronstadt, Ford's sophomore outing dials back on some of the on the nose, soul-pop contrivances of 2010's Obadiah, which while solid and surprising enough at the time, at this point sounds more like an abandoned set of blueprints for what would eventually become Indian Ocean. The songs and performances are altogether more confident, due in large part to the near constant presence of some talented guests, most notably the aforementioned sibling soul alchemists Charles Hodges (organ), Leroy Hodges (bass), and Teenie Hodges (guitar), the latter of whom passed away during the recording of the album, and standout cuts like the world weary "September Fields," the bluesy and evocative "Runnin'," the gospel-tinged "Season After Season," and the epic and elegiac title track bring with them a patina of pure, tube-driven, smoky goodness that surrounds the listener in a cloud of nostalgia that yields no obvious compass points.
Like many of the great soul records it seeks to emulate, Indian Ocean’s lead track “September Fields” is its strongest moment by a mile. Casting a long shadow over everything else that comes after, it serves as Ford’s “Let’s Stay Together”: a massive song with a strong hook, strutting soul backing from, appropriately enough, the Rev. Green’s band the Hi Rhythm Section (including the late Teenie Hodges in one of his final recorded performances) and an assuredness of character not possessed by the remaining tracks here.