[SOUL ROCK] Sitting on a stool, acoustic guitar in hand, Redray Frazier leans in close to the microphone, talking in a tone that would be little more than a whisper without the aid of Imbibe's sound system: "I'm Redray Frazier," he says. "Thanks for coming out and supporting local music." And then Frazier does what he does best—delivers a soulful mix of rock, folk and blues, seamlessly flowing each style together into one unique sound that ignites the spirit.
With the release of his long-awaited solo debut, Follow Me, Frazier has finally immortalized the sound that's made him one of Portland's best-kept musical secrets for the better part of five years (ever since he relocated to Portland from NYC). Originally conceived as two individual EPs—one acoustic, the other electronic—Frazier instead opted to release a single disc that showcases the diversity that defines his live shows. Equally adept at performing mellow, spiritual sets with nothing more than an acoustic guitar and singing with the intensity of a gospel-touting revivalist in front of a full band, Frazier's versatility shines through on Follow Me.
The ease with which he moves between an eclectic mix of styles can best be heard on the two versions of "Knockin' on Your Door," one of Frazier's signature live numbers—and the only song on Follow Me to get both the acoustic and electronic treatment. A frustrated confession of desire, the acoustic version of the song stays close to its sweaty blues roots; Frazier plays his guitar with a furious intensity that recalls Richie Havens at Woodstock. By contrast, the electronic remix opts to frame Frazier's desperation in a hypnotic, seductive rhythm: Over beats by Keith Schreiner (Auditory Sculpture, Dahlia, Suckapunch), Frazier admits, "When my soul's in need of it/ It's me knockin' on your door."
Frazier's musical journey—from his youth spent in popular New York-based hip-hop/soul group Funky Poets to stints with the C+C Music Factory-produced Brat Pack and the critically acclaimed Mosaic—has lasted nearly 20 years and covered a lot of territory. But, with the release of Follow Me, the now-30-something singer-songwriter has truly come into his own. Communicating in a language perfected by such varying influences as Otis Redding, Nina Simone and John Lennon, Frazier possesses the innate ability to cut to the musical chase. Like an old friend standing at your side, hand firmly on your shoulder while whispering in your ear, Frazier's music speaks clearly to the heart and soul.