Let’s set the scene: it’s a main Melbourne street somewhere, probably High St, Northcote. You can hear the languid lullaby of a busker, the lazy strum of his guitar, the box tapping of brogue feet and the distant slurp of lunchtime noodles at Lâm Lâm. Yes, it’s the sounds of sunny inner-city suburbia, and it’s in and around here that singer-songwriter Fraser A. Gorman‘s debut album Slow Gum has grown (organically, and probably gluten free).
The 24-year-old – who looks suspiciously like a teenage Bob Dylan complete with curly-mop – may be a full-time carpenter by day, but his obsession with the history of American rock n’ roll has lent itself to a nice little career at night. A core member of independent (De)Preston label Milk! Records under the mentorship of world-dominating troubadour Courtney Barnett and Jen Cloher, the self-described serial collaborator has so far performed with the likes of King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard and old-timey extraordinaire C. W Stoneking. After releasing a self-titled EP in 2011 and a flurry of singles and shows since then, Gorman’s collection of infectious anecdotal musical musings have finally culminated on his sunbaked debut album Slow Gum.
We kick off in a general manner with ‘Big Old World’, and Gorman considers it may be a weird time to be in love with Elvis and old-style rock n’ roll. “I know about the boy from North Melbourne he nearly killed himself, sipping life from a lead paint-filled balloon”, he sings, his echoey and languorous vocals cutting throw a tide of quiet acoustic strums like a kayak of contemplation. Breakout single ‘Book Of Love’ is a sardonic folk ditty with pedal-steel punctuations, complete with doo-wop era backing vocals in the chorus. He reaches witty falsetto heights in the build-up to the refrain, as he comments “I see you’ve brought your mother along, oh no”. These humour-laden lyrics are translated best in Gorman’s many music clips too, which boast cameos from Barnett (vice versa) and Gorman’s bizarre but adorable mascot – a red chicken.
Expressing himself through wry poetry, bent country-soul and folk rock, Gorman is an artist who connects directly with his age-ranging listeners, whether it be through precocious wisdom or adolescent stupidity. The most recently released ‘Shiny Gun’ is a finger-picking, campfire ensemble, and makes good use of the albums all-star line-up – You Am I’s Davey Lane on guitar, Stu Mackenzie (King Gizzard’s vocalist) on drums, and James Fleming and Jarrad Brown (both from Eagle & The Worm) on keyboards and bass respectively.
The first to be lifted from the LP, ‘Broken Hands’ sits nice and snug in the middle of the album. It’s a blend of Dylan and Vance Joy, and conjures up an image more reminiscent of Nashville than North Melbourne, as previously mentioned. Like his buddy Barnett, Gorman is a songwriter who incorporates unabashed Australiana into his outlook on life, peppering many songs with references to Melbournian habits and familiarities. ‘Never Gonna Hold You (Like I Do)’ is a beach ditty that showcases that very trait.“I get a treat down Johnson Street on the way home from the show,” Gorman sings, adding “I see you looking sad as he dives into the rest of your kebab”. He croons “you better watch it son” on ‘We’re All Alright’, and although it’s something Dylan would’ve said at the same age, this baby-faced raconteur’s old-soul sentimentality is yet to be convincing in some areas, and this is one of them.
The album tapers off into moody bar chord territory with ‘Dark Eyes’, before the brakes are wrenched on to slow things down for the harmonica opening finale ‘Blossom And Snow’ – a sad and lingering number. Written about losing his father at the age of 11 (“I talk to him, but he don’t say much”), Gorman expels his anxieties, fears and grief through this still and tender ode, which was recorded live and in one take with his friend Nick Huggins. It’s a wind-down, and a mature and meditative way to finish the LP. From the farm to the studio, Fraser A. Gorman is a young talent tapping into the every day with lazy musical finesse and dry wit. Each and every track on Slow Gum is yet another example of why he is a star on the rise and definitely one to watch in the coming months and years…
Slow Gum is out now through Milk! Records / Caroline.
FRASER A. GORMAN ALBUM LAUNCH DATES:
Friday July 3rd
Music On The Hill, Red Hill, VIC
Saturday July 4th
Republic Bar, Hobart, TAS
Friday July 10th
Newtown Social Club, Sydney, NSW
Saturday July 11th
Junk Bar, Brisbane, QLD (solo)
Thursday July 16th
Grace Emily, Adelaide, SA
Friday July 17th
Gasometer, Melbourne, VIC
Friday July 24th
Barwon Club, Geelong, VIC
Friday August 14th
Darwin Festival, NT
For more info and tickets, head to http://fraseragorman.com.au/tour/