The Renaissance of the Folk Duo with Fraser and Girard

This Saturday the folk duo, Fraser and Girard, will be playing at The Bicycle Café in Flesherton.   They have been called “the best Canadian folk duo mix since Ian and Sylvia”.   As with many artists who choose to play there, they are particularly looking forward to this venue.   “Venues have a reputation,” says Allan, “This is one of our favourite places to play.  Peter has a theatre background and he knows how to do it right.”  It’s an opinion shared by many who attend shows at The Bicycle Café as well.

“We love these little halls,” says Marianne, “The environment really affects my sound.  It’s a lovely experience to play somewhere there’s an audience that listens.  It’s a win-win for everybody.”

Although they have been performing as a duo for just a few years, both Allan Fraser and Marianne Girard are veterans whose individual careers go back a long way.  Allan achieved a measure of fame in the early seventies in a duo with Daisy DeBolt, working the Weintraub circuit out of New York.  His songs have been recorded by other artists, most notably John Oates who has twice recorded “Dance Hall Girls”, Allan’s song which has been called by National Public Radio in the U.S. “one of the 10 best songs of all time”. Marianne Girard has recorded three solo albums and appeared on many compilation albums, as artist and session musician. She has toured her music in North America and Europe several times.  When the two of them, whose paths had previously crossed several times, teamed up it became immediately apparent that combining their talents resulted in something greater than the sum of their parts.

The focus of the most critical praise is the blend of their voices.

John Apice in No Depression magazine said, “Maybe it’s the power in their voices. It’s something beyond mere harmonizing…the two voices jell and become unified as one voice that belongs to no one vocalist… These two singers fit well together. It’s like listening and revisiting the visual and distinctive songs of Richard and Linda Thompson…”

“One of the most valuable aspects of our life is to work together”.

David Olds said in The Whole Note magazine, “It seems that Allan Fraser has met a new kindred musical spirit in Marianne Girard and…this new duo has developed a voice of its own. Girard’s husky contralto…blends well with Fraser’s sometimes gravelly low tenor and I love it when their harmonies are reversed and he takes the high line…”

But for Fraser and Gerard, the benefits of teaming up extend further.  Although they don’t co-write songs, they each bring out the best in the other.  Allan says, “One of the most valuable aspects of our life is to work together”.

“Allan has made my songs sound like real works,” says Marianne, “I perhaps couldn’t appreciate the full musicality of them.  A lot of songs I’d put away that Allan took a shine to.”

Allan reciprocates, “I’ve learned a lot about singing from Marianne.  When I write a song there’s one little phrase that sticks in my craw.  She sees that right away.  It’s a very strong combination in the way that we edit each other.”

When it comes to self-editing, Marianne cites a surprising source.  “My biggest turning point in writing, and especially editing, was from Stephen King.  In his book on writing, in reference to editing, he uses the phrase, ‘Kill your darling’.  You may have this phrase that you love but it doesn’t serve the song.  You have to let the song tell you.  Let that essence shine.”

Those who go to The Bicycle Café on Saturday night to hear Fraser and Girard will, to some extent be transported back to the days of folkie singer-songwriters, when audiences listened for lyrical insights and a musical blend that in its simplicity struck at the heart of the human condition.

The duo tries in a straightforward and sincere way to just present their work to the audience.  “When we perform,” says Allan, “we do not milk the audience.  We try not to be jive.”

“Yes,” Marianne agrees, “we always forget to tell people we have CD’s for sale.”

But they do, so bring some extra cash.

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