Dan Frechette has been on the scene for quite awhile now. He’s one of those guys who’s laboured in the trenches for years, writing his way through 22 albums’ worth of music and emerging as a pretty damn good songwriter. The dues have been paid, and you wonder why the guy isn’t a bigger name. But maybe he doesn’t even want that. I don’t mean to presume.
This collaboration with California violinist Laurel Thomson might change Frechette’s “under the radar” status — or it might not. As is the way of our world these days, the pair met on the Internet, and their musical development took place via Skype, Facebook, and multiple overdubs, culminating in a real-life meeting and tour of California in March 2013.
And this album. Does it work? I admit I have mixed feelings.
The songwriting is solid, with some trad-tinged numbers like “Comrades” and “The Other Side” rounding out the more Gordon Lightfoot-influenced style that Frechette displays in tunes like “Dawning of a New Day.” Thomson has a lovely voice that complements Frechette’s gravelly tones nicely, and their harmonies are always in tune and pleasant.
I think the thing that gives me pause when I listen to this album (other than the fact that, at 18 tracks, it feels really long) is Thomson’s playing on solo breaks or as an accompaniment to Frechette’s vocals and guitar work. Her bio states that she got her start in the world of classical music, and while that discipline has given her a beautiful tone and excellent technique, it sometimes makes her improvisational playing seem a bit forced and, well, rudimentary. In tunes such as “Mr. Right Overnight” or “Fish Pond Waltz” (a strangely-titled 4/4 piece) the fiddle playing draws attention to itself because of its elementary musical statements and therefore detracts from the otherwise well-crafted songwriting.
I just wish Ms. Thomson had more to say with her solos, or I wish they surprised me in some way. I suspect that they will, the more these two musicians collaborate. I look forward to hearing the results, because there’s a lot of potential here. In the meantime, this set of songs won’t disappoint any listener, but it won’t make you do cartwheels, either. But maybe they don’t even want that. I don’t mean to presume.
Here’s one of my favourite tracks from the album. Enjoy the rolling groove of On My Own:
Dan and Laurel’s self-titled album is available at CD Baby
this set of songs won't disappoint any listener, but it won't make you do cartwheels, either.