Music > Album Reviews

Fraser Anderson - All We Are

by David Vass


Fraser Anderson - All We Are

Listening to the opening track of Fraser Anderson's fifth album the first thing that comes to mind is how he has managed to clock up that many without me falling across such a talented singer songwriter before now. Encouraged to give it a spin after seeing him live, it is surprising to hear such a rich sound. Live he managed just fine with just an acoustic guitar. The sound still has a stripped back sparseness, notwithstanding John Parker's accompanying bass on the opening All We Are, giving the music space to breathe as Anderson's vocals skip lightly over the melody. Rope is far closer to the live experience with only backing vocals helping along a song that contains a narrative that cannot be readily understood but hints at a substance lying just beneath the surface. I realise there's a pattern forming. Although Cold Eyes signals yet another musical gear change, it retains a lyrical consistency. We may not know exactly what Anderson is bringing to mind but it feels raw and melancholy.

Leaving us to wonder where (and when) the Lost and Found Theatre might be found, he teases us with hints of love lost or perhaps never found,  of opportunity missed and memories of times past. If the song is Fraser Anderson at his most romantic, then One More Day Forever tilts more explicitly towards sexual attraction. When Bex Bexter joins him on vocals there's an obvious chemistry that transcends the unusually direct lyrics, revealing an intimacy that listening to feels almost like intrusion. John Parker's double bass makes a welcome return in Would You, providing a foundation for an otherwise gossamer thin melody line which Anderson tiptoes over and around playfully, as the lyrics ask more questions than provide answers.

Having had What Kind of Man explained during his live show, I do know the backdrop to this song, and that does add heft to the already heart-rending sentiments expressed. It only consolidates the view that all his songs are personal and resonant of life experience. Although I'm tempted to share what I know, on reflection, I wonder if it does him any favours to explore the specificity of meaning. Perhaps his songs serve him better if their root remains opaque. If, after all, they are to speak to us all, do we not need to find our own meaning in them?

Holly Carter's pedal steel guitar pushes the music in yet another direction, as In My Head takes a distinctly country turn, subsequently joined by Greg Lawson's violin that moves us as close to euphoria as we are ever likely to get. It serves as a brief moment of energized optimism that I hoped might be capitalised on the final track. After all, while listening to this album I wanted to say, "Cheer up, Fraser!" But then I'm learning this wouldn't really be Fraser Anderson's style, and Golden swiftly disabuses you of such thoughts. It is arguably the most straightforwardly beautiful track on the album, capitalizing on his astonishing vocal range and a fitting conclusion to a collection of songs that showcase an unusual sensitivity which stops short of sentimentality, and yet is unafraid to reveal a tender, vulnerable artist saying things as he sees them, because he knows of no other way.