The album will be on 180g Translucent Red Colored Vinyl Gatefold Cover. Out on June 30, 2017.
Out now! Order Here!

Paula Frazer - What is and Was

What Is

Paula Frazer hasn’t put out an album in 10 years. This 8th release has been in production for 5 years. Her full current lineup, active for nearly 3 years, appears on just 2 songs. One may ask, how does it come to pass that such a breathtaking singing voice is allowed to languish in obscurity like this? When you consider the impeccable quality of her music, the ethereal purity of her voice, the string of near perfect records she released every couple years since the early ’90s (under both her name and the Tarnation monicker) … How does this happen?

According to Paula, it’s a combination of bad timing, a general lack of interest from record labels, resulting in no deadlines, and the Napster related downfall of music sales … Who really knows? Not to say she hasn’t been hard at work all these years, but by her own admission, she hasn’t had a real touring band since the late ’90s, at least not for more than a year at a time – that is, until recently.

Anyone lucky enough to catch the current lineup of Tarnation performing live gets to enjoy a startling combination of musical personalities. Their sets usually consist of one half Paula’s songs, while the remainder are written and sung by Jacob Aranda, and the combination may stir up emotions you didn’t know you had. Paula and Jacob alternate lead vocal duties song per song, accompanying each other’s grave and gentle yearnings with perfect, understated harmonies and instrumentation, reinforced by Sam Berman’s steady drumming and the lush pedal steel guitar of virtuosic David Cuetter (Big Still, That Hideous Strength). You will hear all 4 play together on this record’s tracks “In Some Time” and “People Say,” and also on Aranda’s upcoming LP recorded last summer by the very same quartet.

The rest of the new album features several of Paula’s longtime musical collaborators: Patrick Main and Justin Frahm on keyboards, 4 other drummers, and backing vocals by Elisa Randazzo, Amy Fowler, and Greg of The Moore Brothers. A half dozen other stalwart Bay Area musical entities appear, all adding to the gorgeous lush sound herein. For those unfamiliar with Paula and her music, the question may arise: “Where does this unearthly beautiful sound come from?”

What Was

Paula grew up between Georgia and Arkansas. Her father was a Presbyterian minister and her mother a piano teacher, who got Paula her first guitar when she was 9, and introduced her to George Gershwin, Billie Holiday, and the contemporary music of the 1960s and ’70s.  She sang in the church choir, and by 13 was fronting a rock band called Straye, who played at local parties in the style of Bad Company and covered “Free Bird.”

By 16, Paula was making cassette demos of folky music in the style of Joni Mitchell and Fleetwood Mac. When she was 18 a friend invited her to visit San Francisco; she found a home and a job in her first week there, and while walking through the Tenderloin one day, ran into the punk club Sound of Music. In 1983, she helped to form the all-female band Fright Wig, but in ’85 (before they released anything) she opted to head back to Arkansas, where she toured with Declaration of Love. Before leaving SF she played with Pleasant Day and a band called Trial, which featured Desmond Shea, who has helped to record, engineer, and co-produce many of her records (including this one), and John Borruso, who created this album’s artwork.

Upon returning, she started her own band, Tarnation, which originally included Brandon Kearney whose label Nuf Sed released the Cloiter EP that Paula played on and the first Tarnation album, I’ll Give You Something to Cry About. A few years (and lineup changes) later, Mark Kozelek of the Red House Painters introduced her music to the folks at UK label 4AD who released Gentle Creatures in 1995 and thenMirador a couple years later, released in the US by Reprise/Warner Bros; she signed a 2-record contract with the major label, but got out of the deal upon realizing they wanted to send her to Nashville to work with a producer who would supply her with songs and form her into something – none of which seemed like a good idea at the time. She ended up releasing 4 critically acclaimed albums on Birdman Records and toured quite a bit, including dates in Europe with her hero, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. Finding herself without a band in 2010, she formed Skystone, a psychedelic trio with guitarist Brock Galland and drummer Royce Seader, whose recordings remain unreleased.

During all this time, Paula’s music has maintained an inner consistency in both quality and style, and it’s a testament to her soft spoken Taurean temperament and strength of character that she’s never caved to the whims of the industry or dictates of the press. What you get here is what you’ve always gotten from Paula Frazer and Tarnation. Somewhere between country, Americana/folk, and singer-songwriter pop, it’s simply beautiful music, uniquely haunting, and full of uplifting melancholy.

What Will Be

Here is a spell. You will be deeply moved by this record. You will listen to it many times, and share it with close friends. They will share it with their friends, and pretty soon the record will sell in the millions. Tarnation will become a household name, thereby raising the bar for contemporary popular music and improving its overall quality a thousandfold, ultimately uplifting the consciousness of the general population and paving the way for an era of prosperity and progress.

Well, at the very least, it won’t be another 10 years before her next record comes out!

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