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Fran Gray | Singular Intent (Heart Spring)
Reading the press pack that came with this disc and finding out that Fran Gray's previous disc was of Christian rock music and that for this one she's gone for a more mainstream sound did not, as you can imagine, fill me with warm anticipation. Which just goes to show the danger of prejudging. This is not preachy and anodyne, and neither is it blandly rocky. It's eleven surprisingly good songs, well sung, and with some refreshingly uncommon and good harmony vocals. Fran is from Portland, Oregon and cites Jonatha Brooke, Jimi Hendrix and Dave Matthews amongst her influences. This doesn't help in describing her sound, really, but it explains the deftness of her guitar playing, and makes you pray she doesn't allow herself to become over-produced like Jonatha was on her last, still fine, album 'Steady Pull.' Here the sound is of musicians playing their instruments, not a producer slathering on the aural honey. Smokin' Tongue is the song with the best title and Torn the one with the slinky feel and 'live favourite' written all over it. Her voice might remind you of Maria McKee a bit, and Lucy Kaplansky also occurred to me, as did Joni Mitchell in the swoopy multi-tracked harmonies, but really if you go for unusually good guitar music and strong songs (and reading this magazine rather suggests that you do) then you can't go wrong here.
CWAS #9 - Winter 2002