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There aren't many American singers possessed of a fine country twang who are actually from the Deep South, and who would specifically name Australian Nick Cave as the main influence on their work. But such is the case for the talented Paula Frazer, who far from being any sort of clone also brings the same wide range of influences to bear on her own work, from punk and blues to cabaret and gospel, for her own striking musical visions. Raised in both Georgia and Arkansas, her musical influences readily came from both parents. She sang in the church choir, where her father was a preacher, while her mother taught her piano and introduced her to music from George Gershwin and Billie Holiday to the contemporary music of the 1960s and 1970s. After various youthful experiences in local bands, Frazer moved in 1981 to San Francisco to seek her wider fortune.
While initially bopping around in a variety of bands, including a stint with the undeservedly obscure Frightwig, Frazer's big break came with Tarnation, a band that admittedly was essentially Frazer through and through. The initial lineup recorded two albums, coming to wider attention thanks to the excellent Gentle Creatures, appearing in 1995. Earlier that year, however, the other three members departed to pursue their own work, leaving Frazer to assemble an initial touring lineup that, after a further change on bass, became the unit that recorded the band's last album, Mirador. After various touring appearances, including dates in Europe with her hero, Cave & the Bad Seeds, Frazer found herself once again without a band.
Having already made a name for herself on other projects, most notably a striking collaboration with the Anglo-Indian act Cornershop on their When I Was Born for the 7th Time album, Frazer decided in 1998 to drop the Tarnation name in favor of her own. She again assembled a backing group drawn on Bay Area musicians, with her inspired choices being vocalist/keyboardist Patrick Main, Sister Double Happiness veteran Jeff Palmer on bass, and Oranger member Jim Lindsay handling the drums. The result, with the further assistance of drummer Matt Torrey and a variety of guests, was Indoor Universe, appearing in 2001 — her solo "debut," but more accurately the next in a series of excellent releases. 2003's retrospective A Place Where I Know gathered four-track versions of songs from both her Tarnation and solo albums; two years later she returned with a new album, Leave the Sad Things Behind. 2007's Now It's Time was credited to Paula Frazer and Tarnation, and continued in the same vein as her solo work and output with the group.