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Paula Frazer | A Place Where I Know (Fargo)
While work on the follow-up proper to 2001's 'Indoor Universe' continues, 'A Place Where I Know' acts as an alternate retrospective of the first ten years of Paula Frazer's ghostly, traditional Americana. That these dozen recordings are often quite primitive demos only adds to their rustic quality. Familiar songs such as Halfway To Madness, An Awful Shade of Blue and We Met By The Love-Lies-Bleeding sit alongside the unreleased, all in previously unheard form. Three videos are included on the disc, wherein Frazer is caught in her purest form, alone with a Spanish guitar. Without the layered atmospherics of the demos, which sound like they may have been found in the dusty ruins of the album cover's deserted, wooden shack, these stark shorts reveal the essence of her songs and bring them into the present.
Under the Tarnation moniker, Frazer and a revolving line-up of collaborators released three albums that defied simple categorisation. Despite the American gothic overtones and spaghetti-western soundtrack elements, now familiar via the likes of Calexico, Willard Grant Conspiracy and The Handsome Family, there is a menacing, noir-esque presence that permeates Gentle Creatures, Mirador and the rare first album, I'll Give You Something To Cry About (1993).
Here, stripped of embellishment, it is clear that the Tarnation vision was Frazer's alone. All the power of their studio counterparts is here, all the mystery wrapped in her uniquely haunting voice. Time spent singing Bulgarian religious music in the '80s probably influenced her as much as a youth exposed to greats like Pasty Cline and Roy Orbison, but whatever the source, Frazer honed it into an instrument of extraordinary depth and presence.

Matt Dornan
CWAS #13 - Autumn 2003