When I was a youngster I used to get so excited when the mailman would show up with whatever useless gadget I had ordered from the back of last month’s Star Wars comic book. The anticipation of receiving that bauble was often more fun than actually getting it (and by the way, those damn X-ray glasses never did work…). Of course today I’m a cynical old man who doesn’t get worked up over much, EXCEPT for when my mailman brings me the latest batch of fresh CDs from Motif to be reviewed. Today’s accumulation included a very unusual offering from the good folks at 75orLess Records, titled Let Trouble Go by Perryville, Rhode Island’s own Matt Fraza.
I have to admit that at first blush I didn’t know quite what to make out of this very raw and loose rock ‘n’ roll collection. Perhaps to the uninitiated, Fraza’s vocals may seem slightly pitch-challenged and somewhat monochromatic. The record’s overall production might be politely labeled unadorned or sparse. But I submit that those are the same people who didn’t appreciate Lou Reed’s vocal drone, or who could never quite get past Bob Dylan’s nasally affectation. In fact, those are the kind of people who probably never understood what rock ‘n’ roll was all about in the first place. But Matt Fraza understands the loftiness of rock and all that it entails. How could he not? He waited almost four decades to release Let Trouble Go, inexplicably his first! Clearly he’s not concerned with pop culture trends, and nicely auto-tuned, Pro-tools recorded garbage aimed at the teenie bop brigade. No, this is serious music, written and performed by a serious man who goes for raw emotion rather than neatly-packaged.
The album kicks off with a straight ahead roots rocker “Seventeen,” which sounds like an unholy marriage of The Band with Graham Parker. “Lord only know I need you by my side, Lord only know I need you by my side, so c’mon pretty baby and take me for a ride.” We’re not reinventing the wheel here, folks, it’s just good old fashioned rockin’ fun: “Too Much Love” straddles that tenuous line between Jerry Lee Lewis/’50s boogie and punk rock. If The Killer went straight into the studio with Mick & Keith after a night of binge drinking their weight in Brewmeister Snake Venom (Google it … ) they’d likely come out with something sounding pretty close to this. “I’ve got too much love, I’ve got too much love inside of me, well that must be why I wanna get with every girl I see.”
Featuring some very tasteful electric organ from Tom Chace, “Libertine” is Fraza’s ode to the adage: “If it feels good, it can’t be bad.” In that great talk-sing style of Fraza’s, the song starts with his declaring: “Whatever you want just go ahead and do it – Whatever you want just go ahead and do it – You can live off sin or take heroin, just do it.”
Setting aside the frenetic rockers, Matt Fraza lowers the tempo on the title track “Let Trouble Go” and in doing so, gives the listener a rare glimpse of the man in perhaps his most vulnerable of all the songs. While earnestly strumming a sweet sounding guitar, Fraza creates a heart-on-sleeve moment, akin to those times Keith Richards steps up to the mike to bellow out one of his soul-crunching ballads that only he could pull off with such raw sincerity. “Don’t you think that maybe father, in this life, we could all find peace?…Don’t you think that maybe father, just like a dream, we could let trouble go.”
Granted Let Trouble Go does have, as his press kits claims, “echoes of Nilsson, Lou Reed, and The Glimmer Twins…” But Matt Fraza waited a lifetime to commit to tape what clearly had been playing in his soul for quite some time. When an artist’s work is synonymous with the man, that’s a true hit. And on that score, Let Trouble Go is a smash.