Putting on the new album Flags by Brooke Fraser surprised me. What I heard was completely unexpected, raw, country maybe even a little bit of bluegrass? Huh? Brooke Fraser? The more you delve into this her 3rd studio album, you feel a new direction that only comes from new experience. Brooke says "There are life-altering gut-wrenching experiences on Flags, and it has been a really painful time for me," hence the new sound. Different and new but still completely Brooke Fraser driven as she took on the role as producer also.
Beginning with Something In The Water about good times, being in love ("Kiss me quick now baby, I'm still crazy over you") and drinking wine. A catch Dolly Parton-esk foot stomping thigh slapping kind of feel that you would expect from honest country music. A stunning beginning which masks a journey that is to take place over the next 10 tracks, building from joy to deep sorrow and ending in a prayer for the future.
There is Betty, the sincerity of Orphans, Kingdoms and Ice on Her Lashes which have a lyrical depth as good as folk legends Iron and Wine and Fleet Foxes. Not a bad direction to emulate.
Who are We Fooling, her duet with Aqualung, Matt Hales, could be mistaken for being quite emo but it ends up being a tender, bittersweet tale of a couple that has lost the love between them with no hope of recovery. It's technically clever and sang precisely over a delicate piano.
In between Jack Kerouac and Coachella, songs that tell more stories of journeys and the experiences life brings. Crows and Locusts, descends into the deepest level of heartache and pain.
Flags leaves us with an uncomplicated sweet ballad quoting the Gospel according to Matthew. Brooke Fraser is the quintessential female vocalist in NZ, and there really is nothing like letting her take you on a journey and to come out the other side feeling thankful that she shared it with us.
Almost everyone in New Zealand knows Brooke Fraser as a 19 year-old singer-songwriter from Wellington whose debut album 'What To Do With Daylight' catapulted her into the charts with four number one radio hits and sales exceeding seven times platinum.
Her second album 'Albertine' is the sound of Brooke Fraser three years on from that - and we're not afraid to say that you can hear the difference.
It's the sound of Brooke having toured the world with her songs, playing shows as far afield as Japan, the USA and UK as well as her newly adopted home of Australia, where she relocated in 2004. It's the sound of her blossoming love affair with Africa (the album is named for an orphan in Rwanda with whom Brooke has a special bond), of passion for justice, authenticity and faith, and of hanging at her down-under base camp absorbing, reading, watching, talking, mulling over these things.