Michael Fracasso has a lot going for him: a seamless tenor; an easy smile; a compact, poignant writing style; even a serious talent for cooking pasta dinners. He’s so courteous and agreeable at his shows, it’s somewhat jarring to hear him drop the F-bomb while covering John Lennon’s “Working Class Hero.”
But it’s always tricky to pin down a guy who reads “Moby-Dick” for fun.
There are layers to unpeel with the singer/songwriter’s work. It might seem like the good life to write tender tunes for a living, but it takes work. He studies humans and feeling from all angles. If he has mastered writing about the heart, it’s because he’s experienced love’s ravages, too.
The songs on “Saint Monday,” to be celebrated with a CD-release show Friday at The Blue Door, are melodically rich, yet trudging and exhausted; some drift through houses where love went bad and some try to ignore broken souvenirs. The old codgers drinking coffee sigh from the album cover; on the back, Fracasso’s having his cup alone.
His voice is laconic and a tad scratched, having had not much sleep since his yard, shed and garage were burned down by recent wildfires in Austin, Texas. He remembers 1993’s “Love & Trust” as keenly as this new album. The story behind the early tracks was a case of unrequited love. He wrote the girl recently to check up, only to receive a solemn letter that widened his loss.
“In this new record, she’s gone, and that’s the difference,” Fracasso said. “Literally, she’s gone. As I was working on the record, I wrote her a letter, and her husband wrote me back and told me she’d passed away from Lou Gehrig’s disease, which initially wiped me out. A lot of the songs on this record come from that realization.”
A beginning songwriter might get some bad news and go write a downand-outer. Not Fracasso.
In fact, his title track tells a snappy story about a man who drinks until he’s too hungover to work. Yet it evokes a faceless many, as the beautiful loser starts praying: “Sometimes I feel disgusted, then she sings a song / About the old rugged cross stained with blood / For those who are lost on Monday, Saint Monday.”
It encompassed more than just me.
It echoes what psychiatrist Carl Jung said about the searching soul of the drinker. Co-writer/producer Jim Lewis pushed Fracasso to go further, at first to Fracasso’s annoyance. The song had been stuck at two verses.
“I tell ya, it was like crazy how longed I worked on that song. I wrote it one night almost all night long, and then we had a session and tried to record it the next day, and just couldn’t. I worked on it for days and days on end,” Fracasso said. “I said, ‘I know this is a song. I gotta find it.’ I just kept going after it. But by the time it was re-written, it became this. It encompassed more than just me. It was no longer just about me.”