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Rebecca Frazier

When We Fall – 2013 (Compass)

Reviewed by John Lupton

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CDs by Rebecca Frazier

It's now some 25 years and counting since a self-assured fiddle sensation from Illinois by the name of Alison Krauss tore down barriers in bluegrass and proved that women could indeed be superior lead singers, impeccable instrumentalists and lead their own bands in a genre infamous for turnover. For evidence that Virginia native Rebecca Frazier is a disciple, look no farther than this debut release on Compass, a label founded and run by Krauss' onetime banjo player Alison Brown. And the disc features a backup cast that includes longtime Krauss sidemen Ron Block and Barry Bales.

The best evidence, though, is the music itself. A decade and more ago, Frazier established herself on the active Colorado bluegrass scene as co-founder of the award-winning band Hit & Run, gaining renown as much for her hot guitar licks as for sweet lead vocals. "When We Fall" echoes the Krauss influence throughout, but it's important to note that being a disciple is not the same as being a clone. Frazier has her own phrasing and intonation that sets her apart, especially on tunes like Love, Go Away From This House, 1 of 10 tunes written by Frazier with husband John. Much of the material deals with heartache and love lost, no more compellingly than on the closing track Babe In Arms, written about the loss of their son.

As a picker, Frazier shows the influence of Tony Rice, particularly on the melodic instrumental Virginia Coastline, but she's clearly learned the lessons from Rice that playing lead is not all about speed and playing backup is not just about keeping time. In short, Frazier is, like both Krauss and Rice, a superbly well-rounded talent. She most evokes the dynamic early years of Krauss' career, making this disc a pleasant and rewarding experience.