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Michael Fracasso

Big Top – 2019 (Lucky Hound)

Reviewed by Jim Hynes

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CDs by Michael Fracasso

One of Michael Fracasso's widely hailed albums is the 2001 live "Back to Oklahoma" where he collaborated with guitarist Charlie Sexton. Around the turn of the millennium, he and Sexton worked together quite often. They released the 1998 studio album "World in a Drop of Water." A year later, together with the late bassist Georg Reiff, they recorded "Big Top," which mysteriously remained in the vaults for years, only to be revived in 2017 when it was played at the memorial of Reiff, which Sexton directed. Lucky Hound's exec Michael Ramos was stunned by the music and brought it to life.

Fracasso's high tenor is one of the most beautiful voices in music, leaning more toward blues and pop, with the accent on melody. He is a strong songwriter as well. Fracasso is a huge Beatles fan, for example. The opening "Thurston's Lament" does in fact have Beatlesque overtones. The touching "My Blue Heaven" is an ode to his late mom, revealing his melancholy side. Yet, he can be rollicking too as evidenced by "Crazy Little Cricket" and "Mean Ol' World." Don't mis "Mother Nature's Traveling Show" and "A Deal's a Deal" either. All 11 tracks are remarkably strong unless you want to take exception to the instrumental "Natural Selection," which serves as a good break. Fracasso sounds splendid in this trio setting which Sexton, a multi-instrumentalist here, makes sound anything but sparse.

The romantic ballad "Long After Hours" showcases Fracasso's dramatic vocal croon, as does the subtle political lament "Laughing Boy," which was aimed at President George W. Bush. The closing infectious "Enchilada" typifies Fracasso's wit.

It's astounding to realize that this terrific album sat in the vault for practically 20 years. It's as reflective of Fracasso's talent as any he's issued in the interim, perhaps even more so. The songwriting, the melodic hooks and a nod or too to the blues are all here. He doesn't easily slide into any convenient genre. Like many others in that camp, he's an Americana artist that deserves wider recognition.