La Belle Angele has a horrible habit of amplifying speaking voices and not extending the same courtesy to those on stage. Fortunately, Gwenifer Raymond is mostly loud enough to drown out the chatting hordes, already busily packed in by 7.30pm. This is all the more impressive given her chosen style as a finger-picking guitarist. She battles on, seemingly in a duel with her acoustic, weaving intricate slices of folk and country until the resulting splatter is a gorgeous psychedelic mess.
“Thanks for coming out…risking your lives…” Frazey Ford quips on arrival, neatly summarising the current state of existential terror we’re living in. Does she mean the pandemic? The storm currently battering the city? Unseen additional threat? The crowd laugh a little nervously and Ford doesn’t let the moment linger, proceeding to pacify all fears with her buttery smooth folk-soul.
The set is mostly drawn from one of early 2020’s now-lost albums, ‘U Kin B the Sun’. ‘Azad’, named after her sister, prompts a mention of her wild, hippy parents, one of many detours Ford takes during her between-song banter, not afraid to indulge in a little whimsy or give a shoutout to one of the drunk, screaming middle-aged women. ‘Money Can’t Buy’ rolls on and on, while slower songs like the title track or ‘Let’s Start Again’ showcase the real star of the show – Ford’s beautifully expressive voice (though Craig McCaul’s guitar and Caroline Ballhorn’s back-up vocals are close seconds).
‘Firecracker’, the opening track of Ford’s still untouched solo debut, ‘Obadiah’, is a brilliant late highlight, along with her newest release, ‘U Kin B the Sun’ cast-off, ‘Saul’. The whole hour and a half slips by without warning, the sheer competence of the band and Ford’s unflappable nature almost off-puttingly polished. There may not be a lot of edge to Frazey Ford, but she proves to be a soothing balm for troubled times.