Obscurities: Fraser & DeBolt with Ian Guenther

A documentary about the phenomenal but little-known Canadian (for-lack-of-a-better-word:) folk-rock duo Fraser & DeBolt is scheduled to air this Sunday evening on CBC Radio. Produced by Vancouver writer and photographer Rachel Sanders, it recounts the history of Fraser & DeBolt with Ian Guenther, a 1971 Columbia album that is beloved Fraser & DeBolt with Ian Guentherby the handful of people who remember its original release and the untold numbers since who have found it still shrink-wrapped in used record bins.

"One of the many sad secrets of the popular music business is the way this little gem languished in obscurity," Mark Allan writes in a 4+ star review on allmusic. "It should have been heard by millions, but disappeared at the height of psychedelia. Two years later, The Band found an audience with haunting tales of bygone rustic North American life with their seminal, self-titled second album. Widespread acclaim eluded the earlier outing by this unheralded Canadian trio. The songs, most written independently by Daisy DeBolt or Allan Fraser, are poetic. DeBolt's slowly unfolding, album-opening "All This Paradise" is a marvel, introducing listeners right away to her commanding voice and the sinuous fiddle of Ian Guenther. Fraser & DeBolt - With PleasureThe album was out of print for years, scratchy vinyl platters still treasured by a small but fervent number of fans."

At least one cut on ...with Ian Guenther, "Them Dance Hall Girls," has poptential, with only the album's obscurity keeping it from being covered more often (among others, roots singer-songwriter Tom Russell does a great rendition on Songs of the West, and the eclectic Duhks do a version, but in my mind's ear I always hear Willie Nelson, who hasn't gotten around to it yet).  A few copies of ...with Ian Guenther can be found on line. Their even more obscure follow-up, With Pleasure, is a lot harder to find and to me not worth the effort. In 1971, they appeared at the Philadelphia Folk Festival. Fraser & DeBolt with Ian Guenther liner notesBoth DeBolt and Fraser have continued to make music, mostly up north, although Montrealer Fraser has been seen in New York.

I was interviewed for the documentary because of over-the-top liner notes I did for the original album (this off-the-cuff piece, referred to more than once in print, as "the greatest liner notes ever written" -- I know, I know, but such they were called -- having taken on a life of their own, can be accessed on Grown So Ugly, an essential blog that digs up lost musical treasures). On the sleeve, I called Fraser & DeBolt with Ian Guenther "one of the best pop albums I have ever heard," an assessment I stand by. I still listen to the record frequently. Most of the originals sound as fresh and compelling as they did nearly 40 years ago; the only non-original, Don't Let Me Down, affectingly rethinks the Beatles' approach to the tune. Of course, I also said, this album "will help shape the music of the coming decade," so what did I know.

Sanders' documentary tribute will be broadcast Sunday May 23 on the program Inside the Music (CBC Radio 2 at 3 pm, CBC Radio 1 at 9 pm, with five time zones to catch it in). Both stations are streamed online at the CBC Radio website, and the doc will also be posted there on or around the 23rd and for a few weeks after, so there'll be time to catch it after it airs.

Fraser & DeBolt with Ian Guenther at Amazon.

Update: An Overnight Sensation: Fraser & Debolt on Inside the Music, CBC Radio One and 2 (53:58 MINUTES / 8.1 MB).


Craig Leon said...

The 1st F&D album has been a major influence on me and hopefully on others over the years.Ranks right up there with Carl Ruggles and Howlin' Wolf to me. Cassell Webb and I have tried to cover the entire album one song at a time over the course of the albums we have made.I'd bet that if you dig deep enough you'd probably find that the album has "helped shape the music of the coming decade(s)". It's not the quantity of units sold but the quality that influences. It takes only a few select parties to feel something as an influence and "bingo".

gt40mk2 said...

I also was very attached to "with Ian Guenther" for many years in the early 70's. It really is superb. Just downloaded it from iTunes. The release date on the iTunes album said 1971; the EQ was not the greatest - rather bass-y. There was another edition that said I think 2005 - maybe it's a better sample. I see from Googling that Mr. Guenther teaches music at the Linden School in Toronto (2011) so there ya go. And Daisy just passed away. What a beautiful voice she had.

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