Rebecca Frazier has taken time out of the scene and her music over the last few years, to raise a family alongside her husband John. Bringing back her muse with as much heart and verve as we saw on albums Without Maps or Charts, Beauty Fades and Born in East Virginia, she returns with her band, Hit & Run, on When We Fall, a highly personal and energising work. The band, husband John on mandolin, Kyle Tuttle on banjo, Nick DiSebastian on bass and Shadd Cobb on fiddle, work both with and around Frazier’s almost outrageously good guitar flatpicking on a collection of songs and tunes which show variety, heart and a distinct knack for what works and how to show it off.
Hit & Run have their own impact on When We Fall, which uplifts and adds to the melodies which Frazier controls. Their presence demonstrates just it means to be a bluegrass band today, and their ability to further develop the sound throughout the record, for example on Better Than Staying, comes out not only in tight playing and harmonies, but provides something greater than this, and speaks to soul, as Frazier’s words move into your mind.
The title track dips further into Frazier’s songwriting, and has a sweetness and a soul to it which can be found throughout the album. There is a definite simplicity to the music here, but also a beautiful depth of conviction in its words – life is fallible, and doesn’t always run smooth.
The instrumentals in the collection (Virginia Coastline, Clifftop, the incredible drive of 40 Blues) demonstrate that great, elusive concept of feel, and the spellbinding and thrilling Walk This Road packs in incredible dobro and bass parts with a believability in its delivery. It, like a number of the songs here, is written by the husband and wife songwriting partnership.
The trad., arr. of Ain’t Gonna Work is reminiscent of both Roll In My Baby’s Arms (as it takes the idea and extends it), and, in its tune, of Darling Cora, whilst Morning & Night sparkles and shimmers, with a summery and freeing pairing of mandolin and fiddle.
In many ways, Rebecca Frazier and Hit & Run represent the future of bluegrass, perhaps not deliberately, but in showing how far the tradition has come and can go. Their music is invigorating, thought provoking and honest, not overdone, but well-balanced throughout.
With its harmonies, it is impossible not to feel, and not to feel good when listening to Darken Your Doorway (despite its subject matter of loss and rejection), and it is impossible not to hear the loss, sadness, but also perhaps the hope of closer Babe In Arms, where through personal circumstances, Frazier felt strong enough to put her own story into song, and put it out there for us to listen to.