Jason Fraley, mandolinist with Deeper Shade of Blue, has released his first solo project, Acoustic Flavor of Christmas, just in time for the holidays. All ten instrumentals feature Fraley on acoustic and hollow-body guitar (jazz model), acoustic electric bass, mandolin, and drums.
“I did use a synthesizer on O Come Emmanuel to put an ambient pad on it. I liked the timbre of it,” the multi-instrumentalist explained.
Fraley had never really considered making a holiday-themed recording until someone else planted the seed.
“Our choir director, Sam, asked, ‘Have you thought about doing a Christmas album, acoustic style with just you?’ I never thought my first solo project would be a Christmas album, but I decided to try it.”
First, Fraley compiled a list of 30-40 Christmas tunes.
“Ten just stuck out as my favorite classics. They had nice melodies.”
Recorded in early October, the project took the him exactly a week to create, working 2-3 hours per day.
“I do my best work alone when I record. I feel I can flow better. The whole album was spur-of-the-moment. All the arrangements just happened on the fly. I never wrote down anything. I had it all in my head. I have a background in jazz so I pulled from that to express myself.”
The Monroe, NC, native worked on the instrumental project in Lee Park Baptist Church’s recording studio where he serves the congregation as their music director. He says that it was a layering process.
“I started with a rhythm track. I strummed guitar while singing the melody in my head. Then I added the bass line, mandolin rhythm, percussion, and finally the solos with acoustic guitars and mandolin.”
As he worked, a plan developed.
“I kept it as raw as possible, keeping the finger noise. My goal was to be able to listen to it and it sound like a band playing in your living room.”
One good example is the classic Charlie Brown Christmas song, Christmas Time is Here.
“It is syncopated. It feels like different people playing,” he shared. “A lot of my music history isn’t just bluegrass. I had been thinking of putting up music on my own and be able to express myself musically to the world. It’s a way for me to share my own ideas and feelings.”
Fraley is pleased with the final outcome.
“My hope is that this is an album that you can put in while driving or at home during the holiday season to listen to my expressiveness and enjoy.”
There will be more projects to come, keeping with the album’s song listings graphics which resemble a restaurant menu.
“These songs are flavors of Christmas. I plan to make it a series of flavors of different things,” he concluded.
Jason Fraley’s project is recorded under the name Playhouse Records.
Released on October 28, it is available on Itunes, Amazon, Spotify, and YouTube and everywhere you download music. Hard copies of the CD can be ordered directly from Fraley. Contact him by email for details.
You can always check out all the Christmas bluegrass music we have covered at Bluegrass Today by following this link.