It’s slightly annoying that Frazey Ford’s lyrics are frequently indecipherable. That said, her voice and melodies are so uniquely compelling that her verbal content almost seems incidental. She could be singing stats from an actuary table, and I’d probably still be on board. Additionally, the musicians who accompany her are consistently virtuosic, drawing seamlessly from folk, country, psychedelia, and R&B.
Ford’s third solo album, U kin B the Sun, shows the singer-songwriter doubling down on melodic and vocal approaches explored on 2010’s Obadiah and 2014’s Indian Ocean. On “Azad,” her breathy voice is immediately recognizable, reminiscent of her contributions to The Be Good Tanyas. Phil Cook’s swirly organ conjures the soulful magic of ’70s Motown. With “U and Me,” Darren Parris on bass and Leon Power on drums forge a swing/big-band vibe that bolsters Ford’s tremulous vocal. On “Let’s Start Again,” Ford decelerates, a chanteuse reveling in her gift for sultry delivery.
While most of the tracks on U kin B the Sun wouldn’t be out of place on Obadiah or Indian Ocean, “The Kids Are Having None of It” features Ford embracing the role of political activist or spokesperson in a way that she hasn’t done previously, offering proclamations that ring as au courant and urgently authentic. The video for the song is particularly poignant, featuring a variety of people brandishing placards with handwritten messages calling for social equality and stressing environmental concerns. Regarding the inspiration for the song, Ford offers:
This song came out of a desire to envision change as though it has already happened and to champion the incredible movements that we’re seeing right now. Beyond our collective fear and anger about what is and isn’t happening, to create an image of the wave of change that most of us would like to see.
On “Motherfucker,” Ford’s vocal is replete with palpable tensions, an effective contrast to the band’s buoyant instrumentation. The project closes with the title song, a jazzy/scat-ish vocal that brings to mind Brittany Howard and Hurray for the Riff Raff’s Alynda Segarra. While U kin B the Sun doesn’t represent an aesthetic leap for Ford, it does attest to her signature style, reaffirming her as one of the distinct vocalists of her generation.