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Frazey Ford
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Frazey Ford Bares Her Soul on Indian Ocean

Frazey Ford's ongoing exploration of folk and soul music has her delving into the Memphis soul sound with the backing of the originators - The High Rhythm Section.

By Shelley Gummeson

Call it synchronicity, fate or wildest dreams come true. When everything was aligned, Frazey Ford found herself in Memphis, Tennessee at the famed Royal Studios, recording in the same room as Al Green, Anne Peebles and countless others. Not only that, she had the backing of the Hi Rhythm Section, the band that provided the signature instrumental sound to Al Green. with the Memphis soul powerhouse behind her, Frazey’s sophomore album Indian Ocean is a fuller realization of the soul that was hinted at in her solo debut Obadiah.

Film maker/historian Robert Gordon heard a song from Obadiah on a Memphis radio station. On the strength of that one song Gordon called the radio station to find out who that was. He had a creative vision and contacted Frazey with the invitation to go to Memphis.

You can imagine the surprise and delight of this event, but there were other emotions swirling for Frazey. “It was so surreal,” says Ford.  “I was actually terrified because it was such a dream come true that I almost didn’t like the idea of bringing the dream into reality. It just seemed safer to keep it in the dream world.”

We are all very studied in the school of the High Rhythm Section

Arriving in Memphis with her bass player Darren Parris and her co- producer John Raham, Frazey says of the initial meeting: “I was so intimidated. I’m used to working with people I know really well, collaborating intuitively, fleshing things out, not so much me directing a group.  They [the Hi Rhythm Section] were this entity and there was this much stronger energy. It was a big letting go for me.”

Letting go is a part of the process that allows Frazey Ford to create freely. “I feel like with every album and every process you have to almost go through this death where you let go of the idea of who you are. I definitely went through this before Obadiah and Indian Ocean.

Reimagining yourself for a new project can be an exhausting process and grounding is important. When Frazey returned home from the first recordings she felt she couldn’t even write. It’s all part of the creative process. The expectation was there for her to complete an album. Frazey got to work, and painted fish. She painted fish after fish on the wall of her son’s room. “I realized the irony that the album was called Indian Ocean,” Frazey says, “The first thing that came up on this album was fish living on my son’s wall.

Ford’s understanding of the influence that the Hi Rhythm Section had on the Memphis soul sound was important to the crafting of the album. Frazey has a distinct and recognizable sound as well. She explains how the two came together without overriding the other. “That was the question, the process and the meeting in the middle. It’s like getting to know a friend with a very strong personality. Some things were instant and some was a gradual thing. It was an understanding of each other’s style and me trusting the flow of the way things moved.  It was also in understanding how does one support a folk song in a certain way because a folk song is all about the story. A soul song is often about the pure emotion and the rhythm. For me number one is the song and how do you serve that song. There was a lot of crafting. It was also working with my band at home, Darren Parris, Craig McCaul and John Raham. Some of those guitars were Craig playing, Darren played some of those bass lines and some drumming was John. Part of it was that those guys have influenced my band so much.”  

Frazey also credits the talents of her co-producer John Raham.  Both she and John have worshipped that sound forever so the equipment in his Vancouver studio is vintage. “We are all very studied in the school of the Hi Rhythm Section. That’s why it flowed,” says Frazey.

In addition to the unique forging of sound is the stories the songs tell. Ford takes on some difficult subjects and strong emotions. She admits the song “Done” is a sensitive issue, but goes on to explain what it says. “It’s a song about trying too hard to make something okay, that’s not okay. It’s that kind of force that comes up in us all when it’s time to do something else, which is to protect yourself or your loved one.”   “Season after Season” has the subject matter of childhood abuse. “Indian Ocean” is a true story of having to let go of a person in her life and was partly written in Bali when she was there with her son.

Frazey is honored to have played with the Hi Rhythm Section. She is happy to be able to shine a light on them and their lasting contribution to soul music. Today Frazey Ford still carries with her the spirit with which this album was created. She has become part of the legacy of Memphis’s Hi Rhythm Section, captured in the swells of Charles Hodges organ and in the spaces Teenie Hodges created with subtle guitar. In turn they have become part of hers. Teenie, who became a good friend, has passed on now. He hung on long enough to complete the project and is no doubt enjoying how the album has taken on its own life. Indian Ocean is dedicated to Mabon “Teenie” Hodges.

 
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