Let me introduce you to Mike Frazier, an ultra-talented singer-songwriter from Virginia who has a knack for showcasing the wide range of emotions that go into telling captivating stories through his music. Frazier wastes little time getting to the point he wants to get across in a brief, 9-track album called Where The Valley Kissed The Sky. The collection is a very loose concept album of Frazier’s time spent traveling from town to town and working different jobs in the valley. A lot of his observations through this album’s lyrical content show a changing economic landscape and how it impacts the average person living in these rural areas of the country.
Throughout the 32-minute album, Frazier is incredibly interesting to listen to as we view his experiences through a lens of rich guitar tones and Americana-flavored roots rock. Where The Valley Kissed The Sky is his second full-length release, and Frazier does his best to avoid the sophomore slump. Produced by Erik Romero (The Gaslight Anthem, Beach Slang), Mike Frazier expands upon some of the alt-country vibes from his debut and showcases some near punk-tinged elements to his music. With influences ranging from Brian Fallon to Bruce Springsteen and the 90’s Americana style of The Wallflowers in between, there is a little bit of everything to please a wide range of audiences.
The album itself starts off painting a picture of a town struggling to survive on “Southern Decay” as Frazier sings, “No worker money for you now/The needle takes the pain/And they’re the ones to blame.” It’s hard not to picture the struggling families living paycheck to paycheck that Frazier is identifying with, and he shows compassion for the working class in several examples.
As quiet as the first three songs on the LP are, the record slowly gains a substantial momentum as the story unfolds. Not unlike a snowball getting bigger and bigger as it rolls down the mountain, Frazier gradually picks up the tempo in the middle of the record for some of his best work to date. An electric guitar is introduced on “Destitute” and cranks up the volume in a much-needed way. Frazier’s voice carries over the heavy chords with ease, and I was impressed when he went into his higher register on the chorus.
Other songs such as “Stay the Same” help display the atmosphere that Frazier has perfected with some Bruce Springsteen-esque flair to boot. It’s a great driving type of track that tells a compelling story while still allowing the listener to get lost in the lush sounds surrounding each of the heartfelt lyrics.
Album closer, “Farewell, Annie” was not the down-tempo closer I was expecting on this collection of songs. In fact, it’s one of the faster and more immediate songs on the LP that finds Frazier leaning on some punk rock elements similar to Social Distortion. The finale is quite a way to showcase what Frazier is all about, and leaves a great taste in our mouths as we wonder what he will cook up next.