October 19, 2010 5:40 pm

Frazey Ford, Purcell Room, London

The folk-to-soul singer smoulders, hollers and yodels

Frazey Ford came to fame as a third of the Be Good Tanyas, a Vancouver folk trio with the lyrical precision of a scalpel. But her concert at the Purcell Room confirmed what her practically perfect solo album Obadiah had suggested: that as a lead singer she is poised halfway between folk and soul, paying simultaneous obeisance to Bob Dylan and to Otis Redding.

The record is fitted together intricately, with guests ranging from Ford’s mother to her landlord, who lays down a cupcake topping of organ. On tour, she had a working band of three, the Quiet Revolution. Darren Parris lurked to one side, playing limber electric bass; John Raham flicked a light beat on his drums; Ford’s fellow-Tanya, Trish Klein, played banjo and reverb-drenched electric guitar.

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Smaller than the recorded complement, the band had to do more work. “Firecracker” went off at a pace a notch or two above the slow smoulder of its recorded version. “Hey Little Mama” swapped its barrelhouse piano for Klein’s chiming guitar runs. But Ford was happy in the stripped-down arrangements, strutting into the daydream psychedelia of “Bird Of Paradise” and the Jaggeresque holler of “Blue Streak Mama” over a spare funk beat from Raham, into which Parris and Klein eventually settled in their own good time.

“Angel In The Snow” began with Nashville Skyline descending chords, a harbinger of an actual cover of “One More Cup Of Coffee”, which saw Ford singing the verses bare over a tick of drums before Klein’s guitar washed out of the choruses.

There was autobiography: in “Lost Together”, Ford sang about her childhood from the point of view of her parents, American draft dodgers who brought her up in Canadian communes. “Amazing crazy times,” she remembered, but did not elaborate. And “Mimi” memorialised her grandmother’s wild youth in Texas.

If Ford came in Folk, playing “September” on acoustic guitar and yodelling, she went out Gospel: soaring through Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together”; singing her own “Gospel Song”; invoking the Sea of Galilee on “Walk Around” while the band harmonised away like the Soul Stirrers reborn. (

4 star rating
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