It shouldn't come as a surprise that David Francey has made another album of perfect, poignant songs. Now on album ten, his masterful songwriting never fails to stir, to hit hard, to deliver the perfect rhyme or image. Yet, it's still a tremendous thrill to hear that happen again, song after song, on his latest disc.
Hyperbolic? Moi? Over the top? I'll admit to fan status, but I've been a fan to plenty of others along the way (the long, long way), and had my loyalty betrayed, or at least deflated by most. Francey's still on the same roll that started with his late emergence in the recording game in his 40's, that propelled him to the top tier of the folk world.
There's a connective tissue through this release he tells us in the booklet. Looking back over a tough personal year that including grieving, and a long spell of depression, but also times of joy, he came away with a new appreciate for each day spent alive. The songs speak of moving ahead, no matter the challenges. Some of those roadblocks are personal, some man's foolishness, but none are too big to climb over or avoid, or to make smaller with the right lyric. Because of that inner strength, these are never negative songs, or down. Instead, we move forward with him, sometimes pausing to reflect on lessons learned, but never held back in the hurt.
Key to this period is the song Harm, which Francey tells us is about his depression, and how writing helped him get out of it. The opening verse gives us the problem, "Every dread that you can name/It rattles around inside my brain." The chorus lets us know he's not happy to be there: "I want to see the sun again/I"m getting tired of the rain." And the last verse figures it all out: "Cause I know the past is real and how/But it's in the rear-view mirror now/It's been and gone and there's something new/Up ahead and out of view." Anyone who goes through the cycle of depression will relate, and marvel at how clearly he's described the journey.
Francey doesn't dwell on this dark time, but instead turns his pen to several unique observations, topics and thoughts. Lots of musicians have written about their lives on the road, but Cheap Motel gives us the full picture of what it's really like going from Super 8 to Super 8. Pandora's Box looks at the internet, and how giving everyone a voice means a lot of crap gets let out: "The din of a million million words/Better left unspoken/Pandora's box wide open."
Francey's ability to give voice to fears and frustrations and deal with them in public is the mark of a brave and true songwriter. If it bothers him, he writes about it, coming up with a way to make it at least a little more understandable. That helps us deal with it too. A grand example of this is American Blues. Our good neighbours to the south can be a drag. Their idiotic refusal to get past the "right to bear arms", the corporate culture that runs roughshod over societal and environmental concerns, it's starting to wear on most Canadians. Francey taps into that with brave lyrics that would get him kicked out of most U.S. towns, even though it's not the people but the greed he's attacking.
Endlessly rewarding, Francey's songs give us hope in troubled times. Quite a gift, that.