In late 2014 Red Guitar Music was pleased to review a very fine album by Scottish singer-songwriter Fraser Anderson. The album ‘Little Glass Box’ was originally self-released in 2012 and sold at gigs but a deal with the Membran label allowed the album to reach a much wider audience. This was a very welcome development as ‘Little Glass Box’ is a gem and the soulful, folk sound of the album was compared in the press to Nick Drake, Joni Mitchell and John Martyn, esteemed company indeed. Two years on and Fraser has relocated to Bristol, England after a decade living in France and has also returned, musically, with ‘Under The Cover Of Lightness’.
We encountered Fraser again in August, 2015 when he announced a crowdfunding project for the new album; this proved a great success, enabling him to enter Real World studios in November of 2015 to record the album with distribution again handled by Membran. The resulting album is instantly recognisable as a Fraser Anderson record but never one to rest on his laurels it incorporates musical themes and sounds that you might not expect. The result is an engaging listen that, with each subsequent play, allows the songs to slowly reveal themselves to the listener.
Album opener and first single ‘Simple Guidance’ is in keeping with the majority of the material on ‘Little Glass Box’ as it utilizes the upright bass, brass and string elements that anchored that record and adds a jazz-pop sensibility which works really well. Scratch beneath the surface of the opener though and the bubbling undercurrent of synths / keys that float in and around the soundstage, courtesy of Lian Saunders, are laying the foundations that allow the track to slip effortlessly into ‘Beautiful Eyes’ which ups the ante in unexpected ways. ‘Beautiful Eyes’ finds a gentle acoustic guitar figure buried in dark, brooding electronica topped off with a Bex Baxter vocal on the chorus that has bought comparisons to mid 90’s Portishead. I bet you never thought you’d hear that on a Fraser Anderson record.
The ending of a relationship is quite beautifully and poignantly described on ‘Please Let This Go’ with Anderson delivering a sensual vocal over his gently picked acoustic guitar that builds slowly as the band comes in and the strings swell. ‘The Wind And The Rain’ brings the string section, Greg Lawson on violin and Beth Porter’s cello to the fore and the welcome return of a gently swirling Jonny Henderson organ part will please fans of ‘Little Glass Box’. The addition of whistle to the instrumentation gives the song a distinct Celtic feel that owes a debt to the birth place of the composer.
‘Feel’ takes us on another musical left turn as the bass guitar of Chris Agnew lays the bedrock for Fraser and Baxter to trade vocal parts over pulsing organ while a harmonica wails and Ali Ferguson adds some very strikingly abrasive electric guitar to the mix. ‘With You All’ continues in a similar vein but Anderson takes it in a different direction with a spoken word, stream of consciousness, vocal part.
The album concludes with two songs that return fans to what they might consider the natural order of things as Anderson’s stunningly emotive voice on ‘Five Days’ and acoustic guitar are supported by a deceptively clever harmony vocal and fine use of brass. ‘Rising Sons’ really is stunning as, after the opening crescendo of sound fades, we find the strings lovingly adding colour in perfect harmony with the gentle pulsing of the keyboards to compliment another terrific vocal / lyric which provides the song with a genuine heart. This feels like it might be exactly what Anderson was looking to achieve coming to fruition.
On ‘Under The Cover Of Lightness’ we find Fraser Anderson following his muse and embracing different sounds and textures with an obvious desire to move forward which is be applauded. The result is an impressive but far from an immediate record. You’ll have to live with this to get the best out of it and some might find the instrumentation doesn’t quite work for them. It is obvious that a lot of time and effort has gone into the album and the result is a challenging but rewarding listen from a very talented artist.