I AM delighted to see this month bring the fourth release from the Thomas Fraser collection, That Far Away Land.
Thomas Fraser was born in Burra in 1927. He quickly realised that he had a passion for music and learned to play the fiddle, guitar, piano, mandolin and banjo. Jimmie Rodgers being his idol, Thomas would purchase Rodgers records then would use these tracks to practice his unique style of playing and singing. Thomas was a fisherman but when he was ashore he played and sang at concerts and weddings. In 1953 when electricity arrived in Burra, Thomas purchased his first reel to reel tape recorder and began recording himself playing and singing for his own pleasure. Over the years Thomas recorded thousands of songs, and happily obliged to record requests from family and friends.
Sadly, Thomas died in 1978 and his nephew Bobby Fraser was asked to look after the collection of tapes. In 1990, Thomas’s grandson Karl rediscovered the archive material and began the project of recording the reel to reel tapes onto CD to preserve the precious collection of music.
Thankfully Karl had the patience to work with the recordings and we now have four CDs of his music which we can all enjoy. I believe that although we now have 100 Thomas Fraser tracks released on CD this will not be the last, as there is still more material.
Listening to the music, it is hard to believe the recordings were made in the 50s, 60s and early 70s on an old reel to reel recorder, with no sound proofing, in the home of Thomas and his wife Phyllis. This makes it all the more special and lets us all see just what a talented man he really was.
The first track on the CD was recorded in 1956. With This Ring this was one of his favourites and a classic to open with. My China Doll came from the family archive. I am sure as with track one we can all remember them being sung at parties. There are four Jimmie Rodgers tracks Mother the Queen of my Heart, Jimmie’s Mean Mama Blues, Gamblin’ Polka Dot Blues and The Hobo’s Meditation – all tracks sung with feeling. The final track on the CD is my favourite track – That Beautiful Land recorded in 1969. This hymn is one of only two that Thomas recorded at the request of his wife Phyllis.
This is an excellent release which you must add to your collection. That Far Away Land is available from local record shops.