FREDERICK SQUIRE - MARCH 12
The first song here tells the tale. Frederick Squire's new disc, called March 12, starts off with a little old-fashioned tape feedback, the kind you got from open reel tape recorders. Then later in the tune, everything speeds up, the tape is playing at the wrong speed... and ha, how cool, Fred's producer or engineer or somebody has figured out how to replicate those old problems of the studio. Except it's not a replication, it's the real deal, the real reel-to-reel. And there's no hotshot producers or engineers around, Fred did it all himself, on vintage gear.
Hey, we used to call that low-fi, back in the day, back in the 1990's, when it was a hip thing to do, a direct reaction to higher-than-high tech studio productions, slick robotic sounds then dominating music. Low-fi went hand-in-hand with the early 90's re-imergence of punk, it's quieter, artier sibling. And we had one of the heroes of low-fi in New Brunswick, the beloved (by a few around the world) Eric's Trip in Moncton. Rick White and pals recorded their music in Rick's parent's basement on an old 1975 4-track reel-to-reel recorder. The thing was dated then. Now...it's an antique.
And guess what? That's the same machine Frederick Squire used to record March 12. Rick loaned it to him, and he carted it off to his Sackville, N.B. home and garage, and started playing and writing. Fred is no newcomer, and has long had connections to the Eric's Trip crew. He was a member of the defunct Shotgun & Jaybird, one of the Sappyfest regulars in Sackville, has toured with Mount Eerie, and most notably worked a ton with Erics Trip member Julie Doiron, including lots of touring, and on her last album, which was produced by Rick White. And, he made an excellent disc in 2009 with Julie and Daniel Romano, all folk music covers.
After all this time playing well with others, Fred decided he should do his own thing for awhile, and get back to writing. The classic folk music of the Daniel, Fred And Julie project obviously had an impact on him, and the new material is intense, haunting, simply structured but lyrically potent. Some of the tunes even use standard and famous folk tales as a background, such as his reworking of Frankie and Albert into a cautionary tale called The Future Of Tradition, or his retelling of The Cuckoo, one of the oldest folk ballads, now set in modern times with an electrical lineman cutting down the pretty bird's tree home.
Given the studio limitations, Squire has done lots with the instruments and effects available to him. Whether piano or guitar-based, each song features some subtle layers and clever tricks. Unlike other low-fi creators, Fred doesn't bury his voice, and that's a good thing. He has a fine, low and melodic instrument, and its wisely recorded closely, and mixed up to be the dominate sound here. There's a couple of tracks here you'd think came out of a big pro mixing board, that's how good a recording he got on his voice.