Fraser Anderson appears to be a well kept secret. A Scottish songwriter who decamped to rural France several years ago he’s appearing with Wilson, Swarbrick, Gaughan & Ellis at Oran Mor on the 23rd January. His most recent album, Little Glass Box came out in 2012 and it’s a very fine, warm and woody wisp of an album. It’s perhaps lazy to describe it as sounding a little bit like John Martyn circa Grace and Danger but there are definite similarities in the vocal style. Anderson doesn’t have the mumble and stumble that Martyn occasionally employed and his voice definitely is not as gruff. However his sweetly strained falsetto does recall some of Martyn’s work. Add to this the always excellent Danny Thompson on bass (and he sounds great here) along with Max Middleton’s Rhodes piano and some flugelhorn from time to time and we have a musical landscape that Martyn also inhabited.
Perhaps too much comparison there so it’s important to say that Anderson is no mere copyist. He runs the gamut from pastoral folk to noirish jazz on the album while the title song is a curious hybrid of banjo frolics and tooting trumpet as he almost scats with a Scottish burr. Listening to this I was reminded of Paulo Nutini but without Nutini’s wearisome vocal mannerisms. The album opens strongly with Rag and Bones where Anderson’s guitar picking is enveloped by Thompson’s supple bass as the song unfolds at a sedate pace. Never Know recalls another lost soul, Nick Drake. It doesn’t sound like Drake per se but the mood and arrangement recall his melancholic style. It’s a restrained piece with some excellent interplay between guitar, keyboards and bass. Warhorse maintains this level of playing but slows the pace to a crawl, perfect late night listening here. This laid back midnight feel persists throughout for the most part although the aforementioned title song might be the time to get up and stretch for a moment or two. Anderson ends the album with an understated flourish. Run These Lines is a fragile and tender love song with bare accompaniment which shows that Anderson can captivate without the accoutrements which adorn the other songs. He backs this up with two unlisted songs that close the album. One is a showcase for his guitar playing and vocal acrobatics while the final piece is a minor beauty with wistful violin winding around his voice and guitar. I reckon if you’re heading to Oran Mor next Wednesday be sure to get there on time to catch him.