Right off the bat with the title track of Redray Frazier’s 2015 EP Blood in the Water, there is something brewing, the opening keys overtaken by turntable scratching before Frazier’s soulful vocals come in, loaded with plenty of reverb. Frazier – born to a musical family – brings his church voice to his latest material with gospel-tinged vocals that meet scruffy R&B.
On “Follow Me” there is grit and funk, as well as hip-hop. Frazier admirably avoids too clearly labeling himself with one genre, testing the waters wherever they fit, and the results are unique. The Portland artist seems to be riffing off Motown greats as well as contemporary rockers like Lenny Kravitz (who he has toured with), and neo-soul artists like Maxwell. Having lost faith in the record business through his early career experiences, this EP is Frazier shaking off the past and just making the music he wants to make.
“If You Let Me” takes a vulnerable dive into relationship expectations with a light-handed bounce, its swerving feeling airy and depressing at the same time. And at the end, it casts a heavy vintage harmonic line. “Ain’t No Way” then spins out into bluesy guitars and deep bass, its lyrics “Well I been down/nothing really every came my way/too many trials and fires/everything I got I done took…” weaving a heavier story of personal battles.
There’s a refreshing turn in “Like Rain” that feels freer and less scattered than other points on the record, keeping the focus on the singer-songwriter’s voice before a twisting guitar line wraps itself around the hi-hat. This slow-burn is Frazier picking up the pieces, and feels like the most radio-friendly token track. Then “Daredevil Man” goes back to the funk, breaking out in its own little jam session.
The record is a fitting – and long-coming – follow-up to Frazier’s 2007 debut Follow Me – a half-acoustic, half-electronic experiment that got him a gig playing guitar on tour with David Byrne. And from there to the artist’s stints with Kravitz and Blues Traveler, you can hear his many influences across these tracks.
(Blood in the Water can be purchased via CDBaby digitally and/or on CD at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/redrayfrazier2. Watch the official music video for the title track “Blood in the Water” below.)