Listening to Aaron Frazer’s aptly titled debut, Introducing…, it’s nearly impossible to keep remembering this is an album from 2021, not from sometime in the mid 1960’s. It’s an amazing, jaw dropping collection of old soul songs, beautiful, bright horns and doo-wop vocals. This shouldn’t be a surprise - the Brooklyn-based, Baltimore-raised songwriter is well known for his role as the co-lead singer and multi-instrumentalist for Durand Jones & The Indications.
For his debut, Frazer enlisted the help of Black Keys guitarist/vocalist Dan Auerbach as producer. It’s paid off. That sort of authentic, worn in sound that the Black Keys are known for shines right through on this collection of songs.
“You Don’t Wanna Be My Baby” starts with fuzzed out bass, saccharine strings and soft background ‘oohs’. Frazer enters with his airy falsetto. It’s a classic sounding unrequited love song, a bit stormy, but never heavy. “If I Got It (Your Love Brought It)” in sunny, slick and sounds like it would fit perfectly as a Motown 45 in 1966. “Bad News” is all sorts of things – funky guitar and bass, Hammond B3 and flute as Frazer contemplates the negative effects of leaving a partner. The song simply moves, never exploding as much as it just continues to simmer for its length. It sounds so remarkable because so many songs of this ilk look to make a splash – this one simply just has space to breathe, and that’s what makes it so great.
It’s not a mistake why this record has a decidedly retro feel – Auerbach enlisted several session players including members of the Memphis Boys (who played on Dusty Springfield’s ‘Son of A Preacher Man’ and Aretha Franklin’s ‘You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman’) and some of the Daptones. These players play to the strength of Frazer’s voice, never overpowering his voice, instead, adding texture, grit and some dramatic flair to his words. It makes for a supremely enjoyable listen.
Introducing… is a great side trip in Aaron Frazer’s already spectacular career. Durand Jones & The Indications are readying a new record as of this writing. Assuredly, if it maintains the caliber of this debut, it’s bound to be great. Whatever he does next on his own will be a definite must-listen as well.
- Brendan Hilliard, Obviate Media