Fraser A. Gorman - Slow Gum

by Rob Taylor Rating:9 Release Date:2015-06-29

Some reviews have plotted Fraser A Graham at the headstones of Bob Dylan and The Velvet Underground. I see it differently. To me, he is a young man steeped in the outlaw and alternative country tradition. 

Hard times, whiskey, broken relationships and intrinsic dysfunction did for some decades lay the groundwork for some of the most breathtakingly desolate, and yet soul enriching music the world has ever heard. Think Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, Gene Clark, John Prine and Gram Parsons. The late works of Johnny Cash. A little more soberly, but with the same force of life, Lee Hazlewood, Merle Haggard, and the more modern masters, Vic Chesnutt, Jay Farrar, Howe Gelb, Jason Molina, and Phosphorescent. All have the ability to write achingly beautiful, majestic songs which can be transformative even within three-or-four-odd minutes.  

To this tradition, the young aspirant Fraser A Gorman has accomplished not just fitting homage, but with a joyous and freewheeling nature, he has staked his own claim to the Americana scene with an album of truly memorable tunes. That a 24-year-old guy from Melbourne can do that is testament, surely, not only to superb musical progeny, but to the x-factor that some writers just have. They just have it. Fraser A Gorman has it. As he matures, I’m sure he will produce a remarkable body of work. 

Slow Gum is damn near perfect. Remember what some of those songwriters above were able to do at age 24, and then allow yourself the privilege of hearing a songwriter in the midst of a creative purple patch.

I’ve also read in reviews that Gorman wears his influences too thickly, but then again simply saying he is borrowing the look of a young Bob Dylan, and sounds like him circa the Rolling Thunder tours, is lazy and not particularly focussed analysis. I posit that Gorman has probably absorbed and understood a great deal about the great American songwriting tradition, and moreover is more aligned to maverick country, as I’ve noted.  

Subtlety is the key to many of the tracks; a little bit of aching slide guitar, some female vocals in the tradition of Lee Hazlewood Industries’ Honey Ltd (think Courtney Barnett), some lovely brushed drumming, understated but making a definite mark on the music, some lightly pressed keyboard chords, and production that draws attention to every musical component. 

The blissful refrain and sunny guitar solo on ‘We’re All Alright’ had me dancing around the room playing air guitar, whereupon on one occasion my nine-year-old daughter came out and danced with me. It's the positivity, as much as the hooks that ingratiate. There is so much joy, hope and pathos written into that song. It's an instant classic for me personally. I must have listened to it 25 times.

‘Blossom and Snow’, a purely acoustic track, reminds me of Townes Van Zandt’s ‘Snow Don’t Fall’ or ‘Highway Kind’. If this is a song about the death of someone close to Fraser, as I expect, it a exquisitely poignant one.  

Gorman also has great facility in writing pop hooks. ‘Shiny Gun’ and ‘Broken Hands’ are amazingly accomplished pop songs. For those who appreciate great singer-songwriting, there is much to admire on Slow Gum.

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