While he pushes a bravado of blues guitar admirably Sawyer Fredericks continues to refine his music confidently. Sawyer sings in his signature lilting-gruff style. However, if listeners expect the mannered vocal intonation of Al Wilson (Canned Heat), the gritty dynamic of Johnny Winter, the deep tone of John Campbell, or near-Dylan of Mason Ruffner – they won’t find it here.
Sawyer vocally scrapes the rim of Shuggie Otis & the 70s wonder-kid Danny Peck (“This Could Be a Real Nice Place”). Sawyer’s vivid blues tone is resplendent at times, a well-defined style. But lyrics strain to be bluesy. They’re not tapered to a true blues interpretation & not faithful to the genre in a traditional sense. The vocals at times fall into falsetto (“I Am to Blame”) — not usually an effective necessity in the blues toolbox. B.B. King is the blues, Prince is not.
Better in tradition is “Turning the Shoulder,” it drifts along in a generous blues form though not in a blues tradition. Sawyer’s 4th LP shows continued growth & absorption of styles. But, comes close to diluting ingredients that makes the blues the blues. The musicianship sparkles, & “Amen,” is a blues-rocker thriller with articulated guitar work.
“Flowers for You,” is a 12-track LP recorded in Woodstock, NY (drops May 1st from Windrake Records). It includes Gannon Ferrell (bass), Chris Thomas (drums), Jerome Goosman (guitar) with Katie Larson & Sav Buist (The Accidentals) adding strings to “Lies You Tell,” & “Days Go By.”
A beautiful personal acoustic ballad, “Born,” has Mumford & Sons type hesitation vocal. It may not hook new blues aficionados or keep die-hards but it’s credible.
Those who think they’ll find real blues on this LP haven’t heard real blues. Sawyer sweetens his music to suit his showcase with a pop-oriented lyric skewered to a blues-inflected melody run through a rock colander. It emerges fiery, with little edge & won’t offend anyone.
“Not My Girl,” & “Call It Good,” are prime Sawyer. These are strong stylistically, played well, though lyrics remain blasé. Sawyer sings with conviction & succeeds to render them in a Humble Pie, Savoy Brown blues motif. This is not John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers or the Butterfield Blues Band.
Lyrics are as important as a lead guitarist who spins off inventive riffs & leads. Drummers who keep time & also paradiddle. Not everyone can write & shape appropriate memorable words. But Sawyer can be forgiven – he probably didn’t live the life of Big Boy Arthur Crudup, John Lee Hooker, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, or Howlin’ Wolf but, Sawyer has an ability. As pop lyrics, they’re not bad, as blues — not so much.
Sawyer has everything he needs, he just has to practice with the pen, co-write with someone who lived the life, the guitar notes will follow.
The 47-minute LP was produced by Sawyer & available on his website: https://www.sawyerfredericks.com/