This post has nothing to do with earth science, geology, thermochronology, or Brian Urlacher. It does have to do with an excellent singer/song writer, so if that floats your boat, read on.
The background – I stumbled upon David Francey about a year ago, when I was in the middle of trying to write my thesis, and before I had heard any positive responses to job applications. Needless to say I had a few million things in my brain that would start swirling around the moment I woke up and would reach hurricane force by noon. I found David Francey’s album The Waking Hour on iTunes, downloaded it, and didn’t stop listening to it for at least a few months. It seemed to fit my situation perfectly, Francey’s songs are incredibly well written and heartfelt, his voice suits the songs perfectly, and The Waking Hour, as an album, just does not have a weak point. The Waking Hour got me through the first draft and re-writes of all of my thesis chapters, drives and flights between Seattle, Sacramento, and BWRU, and many a anxiety filled late night bout of insomnia. The Waking Hour has since joined Trace, No Code, Between the Breaks Live, and El Corazon as albums I credit with getting me through various challenges in my life. As much as I loved the album I then hit a wall; although Francey released his first album in 1999, only one was available in the U.S., and my budget at the time did not include extra for import discs. Fortunately, over the past decade I have formed an extensive and international network of like minded music aficionados, some of whom I turned on to David Francey, and are now living in Canada (Professor Van Halen). By the fall I had Francey’s complete catalog, which of course did not disappoint. As I told the guy sitting behind me today, I recommend them all.
The artist – Francey is a singer/songwriter (and occasional guitar player) who was born in Scotland and moved to Toronto when he was twelve. This means he has an excellent accent, primarily Scottish but with distinctive Canadian features. His songs are drawn primarily from his personal experiences, which is the flavor of folk music I like the most. I compared him in an earlier post to Stan Rogers, not so much in sound or voice or even style, but in the feeling of his songs. Very influenced by place, experience, and probably most importantly, people. This is of course very different from crappy coffehouse poetry “folk music”, a lilting and opaque brand of “music” that poor undergrads at tiny liberal arts colleges are subjected to on a regular basis. Sorry, flashback; I’ve seen a ton of folk singers in concert, and the degree to which newage (which as THM reminds us rhymes with “sewage”) and whiny reject poets have infiltrated folk music is alarming. I believe I can ward off these evil spirits by loud regular doses of Francey, Stan Rogers, Townes Van Zandt, Jerree Small, Greg Brown, Gillian Welch, Todd Snider, and The Be Good Tanyas……..anti-newage voodoo (see my music links sidebar for suggestions).
The venue – The Earlville Opera House is a nice small venue in a tiny town just south of Colgate University in New York. It was built in 1892, fell into ruin, and is now being restored. Getting there meant an excellent drive through New York on a perfect sunny day. Very nice. Their upcoming folk lineup at the Opera House is pretty solid, if you live in the area check it out.
The concert – David was accompanied by guitarist Craig Werth. He played two sets with a good mix of older songs and some from his newest album, Right of Passage. Even though he apologized for his voice (he had a cold or flu), he sounded excellent, as did Werth, even when singing the a capella “Torn Screen Door”. Concerts have a way of changing how you feel about the artist and/or specific songs, depending on the performance; folk singers in small venues especially. Francey introduced each one of his songs with a story about how or why he wrote it, or maybe something about his life that was relevant to the song. I tend to like a song more when I know what it is about, well, as long as the story isn’t lame. This is a common folk singer technique, and is one of the main reasons I enjoy small concerts so much. Today I came away really liking “All lights burning bright”, “The Waking Hour”, “Kansas”, and “Under the Portland weather.” I liked all 4 of these already, but now that I know the story behind them I put them up with some of my Francey favorites. I don’t want to spoil the stories. He has a live album (the one I don’t have, and today I was broke and therefore couldn’t augment my collection, it’ll have to wait), but if you like his studio work (you can preview two of his albums on iTunes), you will like his concerts. In addition, he seemed genuinely nice and appreciative of the folks who came out to see him. This is crucial for me, there isn’t much more annoying than discovering a musician you like is actually an immature stuck up retread (we can call this Ryan Adams Syndrome).
The verdict – Excellent, well worth everything. My live music batteries were entirely drained this morning, but are now nice and full. Francey makes excellent albums and puts on excellent shows.