Paula Frazer and Tarnation: Now It's Time

By: Dennis Cook

Poignant as a good cry that surprises you, the latest from exquisite twang mistress Paula Frazer and her SF cohorts, Tarnation, is a bittersweet refracting mirror. Like early Joni Mitchell, their interior explorations help illuminate our own hidden landscapes, all the while providing a dandy soundtrack to our tears splashing in a glass of red wine.

Now It's Time (Birdman) seems made by folks who've spent too long without Summer in their Winter homes (Thanks, Seger!). From that chill emerges an abiding warmth constructed from '70s country, '60s Top 40 and naval gazing troubadour stuff. Sung by simply one of the most voluptuous voices working today, every track resonates well beyond the confines of the record.

There's an overall sophistication running from Frazer's goosebump inducing pipes – a happy marriage of young Grace Slick and Sarah Vaughn – to the band's persistently tasteful playing. However, this is no staid retro bag. Tarnation works up a libidinous swoon akin to the Cowboy Junkies or Rickie Lee Jones with more pedal steel and roomy echo. The note perfect production by David Katznelson (The Muffs, The Warlocks) happily recalls the great Billy Sherrill (Tammy Wynette, Charlie Rich).

For anyone who's lost their shit for Neko Case or the less florid part of Sufjan Stevens, there's a lot waiting for you here, and it's loads less self-consciously cool. Now It's Time harks back to when well-built, well-sung gems were radio's bread and butter. In a more just world, Paula Frazer and Tarnation would be setting the pop standard. Sadly, we've only got the world we've got. At least there's a sad, lovely soundtrack like this to pull us through.

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[Published on: 4/24/07]

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