Blame Springsteen, maybe, for Nebraska suggested anew the possibilities of raw home recordings. Paula Frazer’s soaring vocals (it’s tempting to call her the country Kate Bush, and doubtless many have) were the focal point of Tarnation, a band that eventually became a foil simply for her work, and so she has more recently recorded under her own name.
Regardless, Frazer’s music has always seemed to depend on a modern studio environment, for pristine and highly controlled sound has been integral to its beauty. Nebraska and assorted subsequent lo-fi impulses have all argued for the power of a moment’s unpolished emotion. Frazer’s music has always had an emotional reticence about it.
So what is to be revealed by four-track bedroom demos of her songs? Not much, and that shouldn’t be a surprise. This is pretty raw stuff, complete with the sound of crinkling tape, and the sound is muffled. Because these tapes were presumably meant for songwriting demos and as a sketch of how each track might evolve in a proper studio, they’re not performed with unguarded emotion. All these tracks argue for is the importance of a good studio and a first-rate engineer to capture Frazer’s gossamer vocals.