Melbourne-based singer-songwriter Fraser A. Gorman revels in an ambling approach to music, that charmingly stumbles through personal narratives and detached musical homage. The roguish raconteur turns everyday recollections into individual moments of poignancy with plainspoken simplicity and charismatic candour. Gorman adds an Australian lilt to the distinct sounds of traditional Americana, and on his debut album he continues to tread the path forged by his 2013 eponymous EP. The musician’s influences are unmistakable on Slow Gum, as somnolent singing and languid 70s country-come-70s folk rock mark the album, replacing any potential sense of urgency with internalised catharsis.
On opener Big Old World, Gorman let’s us know that “it’s a big old world out there”, announcing his love for Elvis, the King, before describing characters from across the globe, including a suicidal boy in North Melbourne who “nearly killed himself sipping life from a lead paint-filled balloon”, as well as the girl in New York City, who “nearly lost her mind gazing out of the window of her hotel room”. His drowsy drawl utters these pensive lyrics over a languidly strummed guitar, inviting us into a living room venue before My Old Man bursts through the door with blustering fiddle and swelling, collective chorus.
Gorman’s specific musical tastes even inform his romantic decisions, as Book Of Love sees the singer attempting to woo the daughter of a rock & roll-hating woman with pool-side guitars and breezy backing vocals. Lead single Broken Hands more explicitly clarifies these influences as he explains he “got no soul/this country music sounds to me like rock and roll”. Never Gonna Hold You (Like I Do) continues to coolly shuffle along as Gorman’s strained falsetto is accompanied by more beach-side guitars and vocals, while the bass lazily strolls along rather than walking.
Slow Gum comes to a heartrending end with Blossom & Snow, in which Gorman pays an affecting visit to his father’s grave. Away from his genuine but hackneyed chronicling of the who’s who of Americana and rock & roll, who loves the who’s who, and who doesn’t, Gorman tenderly summarises the very human response to death with one simple and concise line: “I go to talk to him/He don’t say much”. Between its fingerpicked guitar, weeping harmonica, which seems to crack on the verge of tears, and Gorman’s drawl, enveloped by a penetrating sadness, Blossom & Snow is an affecting and inimitable end to an endearing and commendable debut that sometimes becomes derivative, wading through palpable influences rather than confidently owning its own sound.