It's now been four years since "Hello Love," the last Be Good Tanyas album, and during the trio's subsequent hiatus, Samantha Parton has kept her herself musically occupied, producing Jan Bell & the Cheap Dates' "Songs for Love Drunk Sinners" while Trish Klein has put out three albums with Po' Girl, her side project with Alison Russell, equaling the Tanyas' output to date. Frazey Ford took some time out for motherhood and reflection and brings some of that perspective to her debut solo project, "Obadiah."
Like her work in the Be Good Tanyas, "Obadiah" exhibits Ford's passion for traditional folk and bluegrass filtered through a contemporary sensibility. But Ford is not interested in merely retracing steps she's already taken with the Tanyas and expands her sonic palette accordingly, folding blues, gospel and soul into her solo mix. As a result, "Obadiah" is a compelling and lovely combination of quirk and classicism.
Shaped by Ford's gritty and quivering warble, an odd blend of Samantha Crain, Ani Di Franco (in her less militant moments), Dolly Parton (in her less overly emotive moments) and Victoria Williams' lower register, Obadiah sports a musical groove that suggests masters like Neil Young (Lost Together, Lay Down with You), Van Morrison (If You Gonna Go, Firecracker), Al Green (I Like You Better) and Emmylou Harris (Hey Little Mama). Ford's unique magic is conjuring the spirits of musical giants while retaining her own identity throughout "Obadiah," which slowly reveals itself to be a contender for one of the year's best and most unexpected albums.