Reviews for my album CALLING OVER TIME
Released on Drag City Records in April 1997
More reviews are over here
Produced by Rian Murphy, recorded by Jim O'Rourke (both of whom play as well), Edith Frost sure has some top-notch help. Not that her achingly painful songs, most of which deal with a love that flits past, just out of reach, need much aid.
The music is minimal, much like Palace. Frost's vocals are rather unadorned as well, as she prefers to present her songs as a way of baring her soul. The shortest path to salvation, as it were.
Beautiful, but hardly delicate or pretty. Frost has a wonderful knack for using the least amount of words to express the greatest emotions. That's a decent definition of poetry, and certainly her lyrics fall into that category. But the music is just as poetic, without simply mimicking the vocals. The interplay is crucial to the success of the whole package.
An arduous track, but one that is certainly worth walking. Frost paints a picture of a life just over the edge of reality. Close enough to touch, but millions of miles away. A true siren's call.
music magazine, April 1997...
Moody and contemplative, Edith Frost's exquisite, minor-keyed melodies straddle the lines between swinging C&W, gut-wrenching folk-rock, and eerie post-psychedelia with the greatest of ease. This is largely because, while Calling has a timeless, Tonight's the Night-era Neil Young, bleary-eyed sound, it's not music that's about sound, so much. It's about songs: textbook examples of restraint and savvy that recall Joni Mitchell's early '70s work. After years of chasing down America's trad-genre classics, as a member of the Holler Sisters and Edith and Her Roadhouse Romeos, Ms. Frost has pretty well mastered her craft. Calling finds her lovingly accompanied by Chicago greats Gastr del Sol (O'Rourke and Grubbs), Eleventh Dream Day's Rick Rizzo, and journeyman percussionist/producer Rian Murphy -- playing in a surprisingly roots-friendly, understated manner. The lyrics are so clear, they beg to be quoted: "I don't wanna be too happy / Just enough to tide me over." Edith Frost hasn't only made the strongest debut in the singer-songer vein since Richard Buckner or Palace, she's crafted the soundtrack for your next long soak in the tub.
- Mike McGonigal
Badaboom Gramophone, Summer 1998...
Edith Frost is a Texan currently transplanted to Chicago; her records demonstrate that while less can be more, sometimes a little more is even better. Her debut EP was culled from home-made solo four-track recordings that, while pleasant, fail to do justice to Frost's splendid songs. Her writing is rooted in the country and western tradition to which she adds a thoroughly modern psychological-mindedness. Calling Over Time
, which was masterfully produced by Rian Murphy and sports crucial contributions from most of the Drag City poker pool, is an achievement of a much higher order -- it's one of my top 3 pop albums of 1997. The musicians bypass roots music conventions, juxtaposing unresolved keyboard drones and twangy guitars; their accompaniment pushes Frost to sing more expressively and lends her songs some much needed shading.
- Bill Meyer
"I sing the blues most every night"
allays Edith Frost with some weary wonder as her solo debut quietly slips in, at once a charming welcome mat, and an indicator of the territories this collection of personal annals walk. While moving through regions as hackneyed as lost love, there is undeniably something special about how it is undertaken, a certain magic that embraces the listener, and makes the record self-confident.
"I've started to tie my knots around you, they're cut with every goodbye, with every time I've felt the wash of water, hotter and hotter."
There's a certain quality, quite possibly a combination of several, that bleeds through the simplistic singer/songwriter guise. Tact, honesty, ingenuousness, and charm all lace Calling Over Time
with definable wisdoms; but it is the untouchable ambiguity -- the sense of indefinable personal infusion, the sleeve-pinned bleeding-heart minimalism -- that isn't physically represented on the record, which carries the most weight.
"Your eyes remind me: I have seen that colour, in parachutes landing."
The record starts off at the high level of quality you expect from Chicago/Louisville indie Drag City then but supersedes it, more than recalling the country-ish slowcore balladeering of label-staples Smog, Palace, and the Silver Jews; backing up such at-home-on-the-label thoughts with musical assistance from Sean O'Hagan, Rian Murphy, Jim O'Rourke (who's just issued an exceptional solo record himself), and David Grubbs, who aside from their various regular digs (Red Krayola, Brise-Glace, Gastr Del Sol etc.) have all worked with Will Oldham's Palace ensemble. "Loving hand turns burning sand to water..."
Afloat on frank emotional resonance, candourous personal missives, and downcast disposition, Calling Over Time
is stunningly beautiful, in a small, understated, loving way.
- Anthony Carew
If Gastr Del Sol met Kendra Smith in fields of wheat and soft breezes
Burt (Louisville, KY), 1997...
Maybe it is further evidence of my falling upon some sort of astrological charm, but I have been unusually blessed by fine music this month. Maybe the gods of rock and roll found some sort of sympathy for me. Maybe my standards are in the toilet and I'm easier to please. Still, Edith Frost's debut full-length is yet another fine catch. It's kind of dreamy and wistful, reminiscent of Julee Cruise's first album and Mazzy Star, for instance. The songs and mood are consistent and invite casual meditation. It's a little down, but it sounds optimistic, haunting. The last song, "Albany Blues," got on my nerves the first few times I heard it, but I've come around to appreciating its subtle mood shift as a benediction. Coolie-alert status is necessary due to the participation of David Grubbs, Rian Murphy, Sean O'Hagan, Jim O'Rourke and Rick Rizzo. Don't know who those guys are? No biggie.
- Paul Curry
Edith Frost's music marks the perfect meeting ground between Maybelle Carter and Will Oldham. It's got prominent rootsy influences, but it's also filtered through a '90s indie perspective. Which is not to say that there's conscious juxtaposition going on, because Edith's music seems very straightforward. It's just the product of someone who draws from many different sources and experiences, someone who's lived in rural Texas, Brooklyn and Chicago. She released an excellent debut double 7" last year, and on Calling Over Time
she's joined by members of Eleventh Dream Day, Gastr del Sol and the High Llamas, all of whom play in a thankfully low-key, sparse style that complement the melodies and vocals perfectly. A few tracks ("Albany Blues," "Give Up Your Love," "Pony Song") are fairly straightforward coffeehouse country/folk. My favorites, however, are covered in this hazy, celestial glaze of thin keyboards, slow tempos and ethereal singing. The title track and "Denied" are like desert mirages, so prominent yet elusive. Lyrics are generally of the lonesome, contemplative variety, with some truly inspired passages on the order of "I don't wanna be too happy / Just enough to tide me over." A beautiful record, one that makes me wish I'd seen Edith play more often while she lived in New York City.
- Mike Appelstein
Chickfactor, Spring 1998...
edith is an ultracool girl unashamed of her mazzy star fandom and this is a fine continuation of the bedroom-personal tunery she began on her debut self-titled EP. only this thing is a lot more sophisticated and subtly produced, so more moods are created around her vintage-cowgirl tales of mean heartless jerks and stuff. the song I put on everyone's mix tape this year was "too happy."
- gail o'hara
I thought they were calling the new indie country sound "no depression!" But lethargy seems to be the new '90s musical chic for roots rockers. Traceable back to the zombie vocalizing of singers like the Cowboy Junkies' Margo Timmons and Mazzy Star's Hope Sandoval, it's particularly rampant among young artists from rock backgrounds taking an outsiders' stab at country or folk styles. Apparently, such artists feel that a miasma of hopelessness and helplessness gives their music some kind of real-folks authenticity.
All of this catches rootsy acoustic singer/songwriter Edith Frost in an odd place on her debut album. An authentic Texas gal who moved to Brooklyn in 1990 and played with Western swing and rockabilly groups there, she supposedly had two offers: one from the former Texas roots/rock label DejaDisc Records and one from Chicago's Drag City, noted for wispy experimental college-rock projects like Smog, Palace and Gastr del Sol. She took the latter (probably a smart decision in view of the former's eventual collapse earlier this year). The work of her labelmates is all over this disc. Gastr del Sol's David Grubbs and Jim O'Rourke both contribute, and O'Rourke engineered the sessions. These two and several other Chicago indie rockers plunk naked-sounding guitars or meander idly around organ or piano keys, as if the player barely had the inclination to play. It bathes the disc in that aura of resignation, melancholy and ennui that passes for "genuine" country/folk among indie rockers.
But as with labelmates Smog, Frost's vivid songs and vocal warmth keep popping through the flatline non-dynamics. Though the lethargy sucks her in on some songs like "Calling Over Time" and "Wash of Water," her warm and comfortable voice actually manages to imbue these delicate songs with some real feeling: you can almost feel her aching to break out when she starts to roll certain words around in her mouth and or pushes a line a little too hard for the understated musical environment. She's full of swing and sass on "Albany Blues" no matter how minimal the setting, and "Too Happy" is deft and smart. Even some of the more drifting songs wrok: "Denied" is off-handed but catchy. On the sly "Thine Eyes," she harmonizes with herself, setting up an inner dialogue. It's very effectie, since the essence of many of her songs is contradictory feelings. Still, it would be interesting to hear something like "Give Up Your Love" done in a more full-bodied style with a little rockabilly flair or hear the heat turned up even a bit more on "Albany Blues." I wonder what this disc would've sounded like if DejaDisc had made it.
- Anastasia Pantsios
Hoo-boy, that Edith Frost is cute! Deep, gazing orbs beaming from under girlish bangs, and that gingham grin .... damn, she's all that, a 64 oz. Lone Star buttsteak, and I-got-enough-for-at-least-ten-more-Uncle-Dave-Macon-sides-on-the-jukebox! Sized-just-right-for-their-Midwestern-britches disc racket Drag City got it right when they correctly appraised the musical gifts of Ms. Frost.
Reasonably rescued from her day job HTML-trench (her lovingly handmade site, www.edithfrost.com, with its frankly revealing diary entries, sundry musical backroads, and assorted digi-curios) and given a coveted covenant with the label, Edith Frost doesn't just make deeply personal music, she transmits the sound of hard lessons and even harder realizations.
Her proper debut, Calling Over Time,
reveals Frost's penchant for folkoustic and fringe ambience that is at once mysterious and eerily familiar. "Temporary Loan," "Wash of Water," and "Denied" are no mere couplings of notes and thoughts, but interiorized resonances of one woman's soul. Palace? Freakwater? Skipped town ... No forwarding address ... but Edith's arrived with a guitar/case brief of blues.
Texan by birth, tested by the harsh Brooklyn crosswinds of the early '90s, and presently hanging her hat in Bullsville, Frost can boast a bevy of the 312 and 773 area codes' finest as collaborators and working contemporaries including Jim O'Rourke, David Grubbs, Ryan Hembrey, and Gerald Dowd. She contributes vocals to the end-of-the-Grubbs-O'Rourke-axis Gastr del Sol disc Camoufleur,
and her next album features musical handiwork and arrangements from lit-styled Trux-ster Neil Haggerty.
- Andy Pierce
Dagger, summer 1997...
Her self-titled EP from last year was fine but certainly nothing earth shattering which is even more of a shock why CALLING OVER TIME is so stunning. Enlisting the aid of some other Drag City contemporaries such as Dave Grubbs (Gastr del Sol), Rian Murphy (formerly of Smog and I think Dolomite), Jim O'Rourke (Gastr del Sol), Rick Rizzo (Eleventh Dream Day and a recent tour w/ Palace), and Sean O'Hagan! (From the incredible High Llamas.) and Frost has put together a haunting, fragile, and all-together personal record and inside explores themes of love ("Follow"), betrayal ("Temporary Loan"), and loss ("Pony Song"). Her voice sounds broken and building at the same time and the musical accompaniment perfectly accompanies it. I hope some west coast tour dates are in the works. An absolute classic if anyone's looking.
Etch Magazine, fall 1997...
She is the Lone Star out of the great state of Texas. Edith Frost is fairly new to this form of expression we like to call songwriting; and can she deliver the goods. They roll along lightly and smoothly with that Texas swing breeze. The pace is definitely 5 a.m., when the air is thick with heat that it makes no sense to think, but just listen. Calling Over Time
will be the thing you'll be listening to as you bear the lack of sleep and the poor air circulation in your pad. The tunes, one by one, will at their own pace, slowly cool you down. Then it'll make sense. You'll walk over and grab that Cowboy Junkies' disc and break it in half! Why so cruel? Edith's slow, country-esque swing is accompanied with this gusto in her voice that matches and doesn't weigh it down. It doesn't drown in sorrow. Sure, the lyrics, as well as the pace of some tunes, are a bit mournful. Frost has this hellfire in her, like Jimmie Rodgers was able to address with a holler straight from the gut, sparkin' the eye -- head poised upward. This ain't a heel-dragger. It goes against the grain. The end result is a truly brilliant release and another entry for top disc of the year.
- Bryan Ramirez
The beauty of Edith Frost's debut album, Calling Over Time,
is its sparseness. Expanding only slightly upon the spartan sound and style of her home-recorded four song EP, this studio recording is shaped by Frost's guitar and voice, and features an impessive supporting cast, including Rick Rizzo, Sean O'Hagan and David Grubbs. The country-tinged blues of Calling Over Time
strikes a resonant chord as Frost's 11 originals win its listener over with their immediate ease. The quiet affection of the Texas-born, Chicago by way of Brooklyn-based artist's world in song is one into which we can easily sink. Produced by Royal Trux' Rian Murphy and engineered by Jim O'Rourke, both of whom play on the album as well, Calling Over Time
is a rock solid debut. O'Hagan's organ drone adds a swoony pop thrill to tracks "Denied" and "Wash of Water." (note from eda: actually Sean only played piano on "Pony Song.") But the real treat of Calling Over Time
is its lyrical quality -- songwriter Frost sounds like she's putting forth something secret and intimate.
- Christopher Waters
Eye Deal (New York, NY), 1997...
With a little help from her friends, lonesome traveler, Edith Frost, has givin' us an urban/country bummer of glorious proportions. Said pals are The Gastr del Sol boys. D.Grubbs and J o' Rourke on key boards and guitar, R. Rizzo (from 11th Dream Day) on bass, and even guestbit of ivory tinkling from Sean 'Stereolab' O'Hagan. From the slightly hungover, dizzying, organ antics on "Denied" to the happy go lucky plunking and swaggering steel guitar on "Too Happy" the external moods may shift slightly, but the internal injuries Miss Frost has sustained are all too raw and consistent. The blues comes in many shapes and sizes but only one color.
- Gerald McBoing Boing
Great God Pan, October 1997...
Few musicians make such personal music as Edith Frost. Drag City puts forth another worthy album, with a style reminiscent of Neil Young and early Loretta Lynn. Frost really gives you everything, except resolution. This is perhaps the best record of 1997.
These are not exactly the feel good songs of the season, but they certainly let me know some of the things on Edith's mind. Female, Palace-like, beautiful clarity. The standard Chicago cast of production luminaries assist like Scotty Pippen. The boys don't overtake her gorgeous vocals. Instead they play nice-nice and help to leave the distinct impression that she's resigned, languishing and weary of same shit, different day. The Billie Holiday of the latest lament-core wave of confused longing and unfortunate hope.
The slow seductive trot of Edith Frost's muted acoustic guitar sets the stage for a voice that floats effortlessly through narratives of relationships gone bad. Elements of blues, country, and folk are applied without actually taking on any of their cheapened costumes to create something which at once embodies and rebels against each style. A cast of Chicago all-stars support in the background with all the essentials, but the real pleasure here is Frost's voice, which patiently breathes life into tales you have undoubtedly heard before but need to hear at least once more.
- Chad Bidwell
Jitter Magazine, June 1997...
Edith Frost has been one of my favorite musicians ever since Drag City released her self titled EP last year. Needless to say I've been waiting for this full length release for a long, long time.
Edith Frost writes the kind of songs that can be so sad and personal that all you want to do is forget them, but yet, at the same time you are drawn to her music and her writing, so all you can do is keep listening and falling deeper into Ms. Frost's world.
Calling Over Time
has gone above and beyond any expectations I had for this album. Every song is perfect, every song is special in a different way. From the beginning, Frost draws the listener in and sets a dark mood with the song "Temporary Loan." Here Frost sings, "I sing the blues most every night, and I wait for the one I lost, he snuck into my secret files, and he read my mind. He belongs to someone, I know how she spells her name, I'll consider another day, without the one I love, without the one I love, alone..."
Frost's soft, beautiful and subtly spooky voice presents the lyrics in a way that is both heartwarming and bone chilling. Frost's music is comprised mostly of country and folk influenced acoustic guitar, driven with the same passion that surrounds her lyrics.
One of the best parts of Calling Over Time
is the incorporation of Jim O'Rourke, David Grubbs, Rian Murphy (who also handled the fine production work), Sean O'Hagen, and Rick Rizzo contributing various instruments into Frost's songs. The piano and violin on "Temporary Loan" are absolutely amazing.
Edith Frost moves on to sing other great songs, like "Calling Over Time," "Pony Song," "Wash of Water," "Shadows," and "Albany Blues."
While all the songs stay within the mellow acoustic vein, there's a lot of variety in that vein. There are the sad acoustic songs, but there are also the more hopeful, poppy, country-esque songs like "Give Up Your Love," and don't forget the extra unnerving "Thine Eyes."
All in all, Calling Over Time
is Edith Frost at her best. Do your best not to miss this album. Also if you get a chance to see Frost perform please do, you won't regret a minute of it.
(in an article about Gastr del Sol)
...Anyways, the Gastr Boys got some new company with 'em. That broad there, that's Edith Frost
(Calling Over Time
[Drag City]). She's a piece of work -- ain't got much use for metaphor, real plain-spoken like. Her turf's the place where Patsy Cline and the third Velvets album meet, and that's the kinda place where the soil'd be like quicksand if you don' know what you're doin'. If I told ya who's buried there... well, alright, between you and me, remember the Cowboy Junkies? No? I rest my case. What I'm tellin' you's that the del Sol Twins over here swept in and turned that piece of land into a ghost town, hauling in the Vox organs, rearrangin' the space around her, makin' the whole place fit for the lovelorn brooders that drift in and outta the place. Wherever she goes now, it's always three a.m. and the black coffee and unfiltered cigarettes flow like... somethin' that flows, I guess, what am I, Edna St. Vincent fuckin' Millay?...
How did this get on Drag City? Sweetly sung, thoughtfully written songs all performed with a delicate grace. A little snail-like at times, but this record is worth a little of your time on some lazy afternoon. Keep the name Edith Frost on your short list. I bet we've only just begun hearing good things from her.
Maxine (Chicago, IL), Summer 1998...
Edith Frost is the undisputed queen (in my cd player at least) of melancholy strummy little songs for when I just can't handle washing my hair. There are obvious similarities to labelmate Will Oldham, but these songs are minus the evangelical overtones and even more spare, but less bleak, than recent Palace offerings. When I did finally leave the house, I was embarrassed to find myself humming compulsively, sotto voce, on the subway.
Milkbone, July-August 1997...
The whole lonesome-melancholy-acoustic-folky-thing has been getting pretty popular these days thanks to acts like Palace, Elliott Smith, Pete Krebs, etc., and now we have Edith Frost to throw on the pile. She cites her biggest influences as 1950's country, rockabilly, and Palace, though I don't think that makes for the best description of her music. It's pretty sad, mostly her and her guitar with some piano thrown in (courtesy David Grubbs and Rian Murphy), and lots of harmonies. Picture Patsy Cline meets Mazzy Star. Nothing on here is very upbeat, and some of it is downright depressing, as most songs deal with desertion, betrayal, isolation, and an overall foreboding that things can only get worse. Bright spots on the album include the title track, "Albany Blues," and "Pony Song." There isn't a whole lot of variety, but then again she does her thing well and the album is definitely a rewarding one.
- Scott T.
She's certainly not very happy, but she's not hollerin' about it. She's just mentioning it in passing, and you might even feel like asking her it if her voice wasn't so distractingly beautiful. Quiet, reserved, sad yet lilting, making a line like "He doesn't love me anymore" sound like emotional maturity. After all, she doesn't want to be too happy, "Just enough to keep me going, cause it won't feel like home without something to hold me back". Being a female "singer-songwriter" can have dire implications which, on the whole, she manages to evade -- with musicians like David Grubbs and Jim O'Rourke helping out on mood-management, there's enough space to feel vaguely unsettled amongst the low-key honky-tonk and twang.
- Zita Joyce
Edith Frost is from Texas. By way of New York City she landed in Chicago, where she recorded Calling Over Time
. The album's cover shows a hazy view of what appears to be the Chicago skyline. If Chicago represents AnyBigLonelyCity USA, then Calling Over Time
is about Chicago. The minimalistic arrangements, doubled vocals, and eerie organ work are all Chicagoan, thanks to the influence of the ever-present Jim O'Rourke. But most everything else about Calling Over Time
is Southern. The basic acoustic guitar strummin', the heavy walking bass, the simple upright piano, the lack of drums, and the close harmonies all reek of country -- not Garth Brooks country, but cattle-drive-campfire country.
Calling Over Time
has some blatant country ditties ("Pony Song," "Give Up Your Love," "Albany Blues"), and even some high and lonesome cowgirl blues ("Shadows"). Frost is lamest when she hams the accent and tries to pull off a Patsy Cline thing. She can't sing that well. Her voice is coolest when she just meanders along signifying melodies, which is what she mostly does.
were just a collection of shoddily performed prairie songs, big yip. Fortunately, more than half of these songs transcend their genre to achieve massive apocalyptic greatness. Songs like "Follow," "Calling Over Time," and "Denied," in their bittersweet succinctness make Nine Inch Nails sound as blithe as the Cure. The mood of "Follow" is so spooky and ethereal, it stakes out its own subterranean emotional continent. "Engulf me lover/ And loop me into blue/ Enfold me lover."
If songs are sponges that soak up memories (and they are), then Calling Over Time
is the mother of all loofas. It has absorbed the last month of my life and shows no signs of saturation. "Now that you're in paradise/ Where you're bound to spend your life/ I'll be calling over time/ Though we may never unite."
Whereas some country ballads are haunting, "Denied" is downright ghostly. Its breathy harmonies, lolling waltz bass line, and clashing organ overtones make it sound less like the soundtrack to Gunsmoke
and more like the soundtrack to Bram Stoker's Dracula
. "I'd like to light/ Fires in the world/ Burn out the lights/ Burn out the foundries."
Frost's worst lyrics are pretty bad: "oh baby when we go down to Albany/ oh the headaches'll be so amazing cause/ it's not easy to move your possessions/ to a place so far away from home." Ouch! But her best lyrics are cryptically evocative gems: "Loving hand turns burning sand to water." And Calling Over Time
's profound moments outweigh its cheesy ones, making them bearable. Frost is at her best when she's nursing wounds of betrayal or pining into the void. Yeah, this is music to sing around the campfire...on some introspective porcupine drive through the parted waters of the River Styx.
- Curt Cloninger
It's not much of a voice, but it'll do. In fact, the thick wash of reverb masking it ensures Edith Frost's voice doesn't have much of a chance. The stories Frost is interested in telling on her debut, Calling Over Time, are not meant to be broadcast in big, brassy tones. They're quiet, forlorn tales best expressed by her wistful near-monotone and her supporting cast's austere backing.
Her backing combo is actually quite a band. Gastr del Sol's David Grubbs and Jim O'Rourke weigh in with piano, violin, guitar, and pedal steel, while Eleventh Dream Day's Rick Rizzo adds his guitar to the sparse mix.
Frost has a bit more of a sad nightclub vibe in her than any of the above. A Texan by birth, but an itinerant musician by nature, Frost prefers a blue jazzy groove on which you can just about smell the smoky aroma around her sashaying rhythm. "I sing the blues most every night/ And I wait for the one I love," Frost sings on "Temporary Loan." She's content to wallow in the disconsolate air, heaving one shovel after another full of her life's regrets and disappointments into her songs.
- Rob O'Connor
Rocktober, 1997 (#19)...
Forget that black frock hoo-ha, this sounds more like a classic "Gothic" novel reads than any of that vampire clamor ever could.
Sample Magazine (Washington University), spring/summer 1997...
Edith Frost made a sparkling debut in 1996 with a sparse, yet hardly simplistic EP. Mostly calling upon the meager tools of an acoustic guitar and her plaintive, whispery vocals, Frost crafts intricate melodies into subtle but affecting songs that transcend the folky singer-songwriter approach suggested by her means. For her full length debut, Calling Over Time,
she employs the services of members of Gastr del Sol and Eleventh Dream Day to add piano, organ, fiddle, and bass to her musical palate. I was initially hesitant as to whether or not the presence of others might disrupt the intimate performance style Frost had previously demonstrated herself capable of. Fortunately, the extra company avoids clouding the songs with excess baggage and distraction, and serves to increase the range of timbres available to her as on "Temporary Loan" and "Calling Over Time," which feature simple strums of acoustic guitar colored by evocative washes of organ. Whereas so many of the hitmakers of the day approach music with the ethic of THIS SONG IS GOING TO HAVE AN EFFECT ON YOU, THE LISTENER, Edith Frost carefully pains portraits that enrapture the listener in a less overt and ultimately more affecting manner. Her gift for the elegant vocal melody is unmistakable, especially on the gorgeous "Denied" in which she brings to mind Patsy Cline, Kendra Smith, and the tunesmithery of vintage Donovan. Her lilting voice exudes sensitivity and nuance without being (or at least appearing) too self-conscious about the delivery, much like Allison Stratton whose shy intimations with cult band, Young Marble Giants, left listeners feeling privy to a private performance. Frost's lyrics include familiar laments of loss and unrequited love, but frequently delve into matters more introspective, mysterious and personal as on "Shadows." A few too many stale blues licks sabotage "Pony Song" and constricting rhythms anchor "Too Happy" to the shoreline, but overall Calling Over Time
reaffirms that her debut EP was no accident. Hats off to the fine folks at Drag City Records who must listen to miles of banal demo tapes in order to unearth gems such as Edith Frost.
- T. Sedlak
Stop Smiling, Summer 1997...
Calling Over Time,
Edith Frost's debut album, is a dream come true. Her tranquil vocal melodies and simple guitar work adds countless wonders to the introspective, diligently penned lyrics surrounding her soundscapes. Uniting the minimal textures throughout, a number of prized Drag City revolutionaries (Jim O'Rourke, David Grubbs, plus Rick Rizzo) lend sobering elements of sparse organ, pedal steel, piano, and the like. Perhaps the most enduring accompaniment to Frost's songs is not in the actual execution, it's the way she crafts them -- in a lonely room at home. The hollow sadness on songs like "Denied," "Wash of Water" and "Shadows" flush illustrious, dulcet sounds through her unsuspecting, mild-mannered vocal strains. "Temporary Loan" and "Pony Song" leave an externally morose feeling yet evoke some infrequent devil-may-care-isms throughout. Simply beautiful.
- J.C. Gabel
Tracking Angle, Fall 1997...
Be the first on your block to discover this sublime delicacy served up by newcomer Edith Frost, a young woman unafraid of opening her lover's diary to the world. In a series of dreamy confessionals, she reveals her innermost longings and desires, setting them to spare, intimate melodies arranged as folky, country tinged drawing room sketches for a small ensemble of mostly acoustic instruments.
Frost's singing is unadorned and direct, as you might expect from someone who's simply trying to reach herself. Experience has obviously taught Frost not to expect too much. The opener, "Temporary Loan," sets the tone for the set: "I was just a harbor/a temporary love/a temporary love/on loan..." In "Too Happy" she sings "I don't wanna be beitter anymore...I don't wanna be too happy/just enough to keep me goin'." On "Pony Song" she seeks love, but is quick to add "...don't wanna try/to take you over/to tame your heart/I don't wanna give you no reins..."
The world has bitten, but, unlike the angry female voices in rock today, folkier Frost isn't interested in biting back. She'll settle for restoration and emotional justice. She doesn't demand it. She asks for it, knowing neither she, nor anyone else is entitled to it. Sincerity is the set's watchword. Dignity is the message.
David Grubbs, producer/engineer Jim O'Rourke, aka Gastr del Sol, producer Rian Murphy, and a few others add sophisticated, sensitive, thoughtful acoustic/electric guitar, bass, violin and piano backing that leaves plenty of atmospheric spaces. The opener has a distant drum kit, some cheesy electric organ fills augment another track, there are accents of electrified guitar, but mostly it's an intimate, acoustic affair, refreshingly cliché free. The backing to "Pony Song" reminds me of the link between "Andy Warhol" and "Song For Bob Dylan" on Bowie's Hunky Dory.
The recording is spare and natural, with an outstanding sense of room acoustic. The instruments float three dimensionally, unprocessed in the space, with Frost's cleanly miked voice, occasionally overlayed with echo, front and center. Quiet pressing, too.
A promising debut from a unique talent. Will the promise be fulfilled? We'll have to wait for the second and third Edith Frost records to be sure. For now there's this and there's plenty to chew on. Another winner from Drag City.
Former Texan Edith Frost does Patsy Cline one
better on her intensely plaintive full-length debut. She doesn't just
fill a river with tears, she tackles an entire ocean in a melancholy
little number called "Wash of Water." But for all the disc's
stark overtones, it's hard not to notice how Frost revels in dark moods.
Depression can be liberating when it's a means to happier ends -- just ask
Nick Cave -- and you get the sense that Frost wouldn't feel particularly
comfortable if things were going her way. "I don't want to be too
happy, just enough to tide me over," she sings on the relatively
upbeat "Too Happy," her robust voice rubbing up against the
piano and pedal-steel accompaniment of Gastr del Sol's David Grubbs and
Jim O'Rourke. Elsewhere, stripped down, acoustic guitar-based arrangements
mirror Frost's haunting introspection, offering just enough Southern
twang to tide roots enthusiasts over without settling into country
- Matt Ashare
Your Flesh, Fall 1997...
Surprisingly enough, many an entrant in the singer/songwriter sweepstakes has pulled into the starting gate without either good songs or a decent voice to sing with. Witnessing <name withheld by eda> mumble and yowl his way through an acoustic set recently convinced me of this. But I also saw a solo Edith Frost set around the same time and was very impressed by both the crystal clear tone of her voice and the strength of her songs. I had heard nothing but good things about the recording sessions that produced this record, with David Grubbs, Jim O'Rourke, Rick Rizzo, Rian Murphy and Sean O'Hagan providing sympathetic and restrained backing to Ms. Frost. Now Calling Over Time
is in hand and it lives up to expectations. From the beginning of "Temporary Loan" the key is Ms. Frost's voice, beautiful and direct it's augmented by spare piano figures and some guitar lines. The songs have the strengths of the country/folk tradition; a directness and emotional appeal that doesn't have to rely on the maudlin pull of heartstrings. It's worth emphasizing again that the instrumental support is strategically placed; each piano chord, or even a slowly developing organ drone, strikes at exactly the right place. Often this sort of music is described as being best suited for the wee small hours of the night, I beg to differ. Calling Over Time
is best enjoyed in the morning, when the light brings recognition of both loss and the necessity to move through the world. This is a truly beautiful record and well worth your attention if you'd like to hear some affecting music.
- Bruce Adams
© 2002 Edith Frost | All rights reserved