he root of all soul music is freedom-sheer abandon. It’s about luxuriating in the emotions that make us all human. No wonder singer Frazey Ford placed her ear to the earth and tapped into that lush tradition to give voice to her own stories on her newest release, Indian Ocean, an album about pain and dealing with tough truths but also about trust, love contrition and being bold. Ford’s self-possession and passion puts flesh to the musical bones, and you hear a record hit the essence of Aretha’s notion of R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
There’s always been something soulful teeming underneath the honey-dipped tremulous restraint in Ford’s vocals on her Be Good Tanyas records, as well as her solo debut Obadiah (2010). It’s just that this time around, the familiar old-timey rustic harmonies have bloomed, transported into a full-throated ebullience that takes us down to where the rivers run deep.
The story of this album begins with filmmaker Robert Gordon (PBS’s “Can’t Be Satisfied: The Life And Times Of Muddy Waters”), who was working on a documentary on Memphis soul, which focused on Al Green and long-time producer Willie Mitchell’s creative home base, Royal Studios. After Gordon heard Ford’s Obadiah song, “If You Gonna Go,” on the radio, he invited her to come record at Royal Studios in Memphis. That journey sparked a collaboration that eventually became the album Indian Ocean, a unique braiding of warm but tough-minded Memphis soul and vulnerable folk acumen.