Monday, January 7, 2013

The Blues Revival...


It's probably not the kind of music you should start your year listening to but most of you know I have a strong appreciation for musical storytelling, especially when there is a sad story to tell. The story of Mr Frank is quite an extraordinary one.... 

His life was as tragic as any bluesman, his songs laced with melancholy and simplistic honesty. Whilst researching him I found that there had been many dark turns of fate which brought to life his lyrical genius.  Through his misfortune his talent was born, he learnt how to play the guitar after being badly burned in a school fire. Following a substantial compensation settlement he left America in 1965, for less sunnier climes here in the UK. 

He arrived in the midst of the British folk revival where he influenced, and was influenced by an impressive list of musicians including Paul Simon (who produced Mr Frank's first and only album.) Upon trying to record his second album he developed writer's block, with money running low he returned to the USA. Along this journey he married a former fashion model and lost his son to cystic fibrosis. 

What followed was a rapid downwards spiral - childhood scars burned, disappointment and mourning wept, a shot to the eye left him blind, homelessness on the cold streets of New York ensued and all roads led to mental illness.

In the early 90's - Jim Abbott- an admirer of Frank's work tried to help him record a new album but the songs they cut were not the glorious return to form either of them had expected. His life experiences had wore thin the voice that made him special. Jackson C. Frank died in March 1999 from pneumonia and a heart attack.  

A special album including the 'newer' material he recorded is what I am now in possession of. My favourite 'newer' Frank song would have to be "Halloween Is Black as Night." It has a brilliant despondency and sounds remarkably like a Leonard Cohen song, only much darker and more desperate than Cohen has ever been.   

My favourite songs with a 3 word review: 
    1. MARLENE - blissful folk lovesong
    2. HERE COME THE BLUES - traditional raw blues
    3. PRIMA DONNA OF SWANS - beautiful lyrical imagery