Fallout is hawking its highly anticipated reissue of Fraser & DeBolt's 1971 debut to the freak-folk scene. According to the back cover, the Canadian duo is "sure to delight fans of . . . Devendra Banhart and Joanna Newsom."
But here's the problem with that: Banhart and company, however experimental, are neo-hippies making lush stoner music. Fraser & DeBolt, in contrast, were aggro folkies with a crude, proto-indie vision. They didn't strum acoustic guitars; they mangled them. And that's partly the reason why they flopped commercially in the Age of Aquarius, despite recording for Columbia.
With an austere production that's the antithesis of back-to-the-land cozy, the duo's axes stutter like broken drum machines. Allan Fraser croons the sullen ballads, including "The Waltz of the Tennis Players," recently covered by Meg Baird. Daisy DeBolt shares in the tender moments, but primarily steers their avant-jams, screeching and moaning like a mutant hybrid of Linda Perry and Yoko Ono. Then there's this Ian Guenther dude, who plays a jagged and often atonal fiddle.
At times, as on "Old Man on the Corner," Fraser & DeBolt With Ian Guenther can be a downright shrill listen. But there's no denying the raw emotion of this rediscovered gem.