Robert Francis - One By One CD Review ~ BrooklynRocks: NYC Music Blog

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Robert Francis - One By One CD Review

Robert Francis - One by One CD ReviewRobert Francis makes a pretty bold statement modeling the cover of his debut CD after the cover of Bob Dylan's The Times They Are a-Changin'. Francis' CD One to One isn't quite Dylan but it is a solid debut. Both musically and with his lyrical outlook, Robert Francis is closer in spirit to Townes Van Zandt or Cowboy Junkies than Dylan. One to One contains 10 world-weary tales of people, places and heartache. Townes Van Zandt, after being asked why he only wrote sad songs said "Well, many of the songs, they aren't sad, they're hopeless." Francis' melodies and lyrics aren't all hopeless but there is a sort of haunting beauty that carries across these tracks.

There has been a lot of 'to-do' in the media that Francis was only 19 when he recorded this CD. Not to downplay Francis' achievements (which are impressive - he plays guitar, bass, drums, piano, banjo and glockenspiel on this disc in addition to taking on the role of producer) but he is not a newcomer to the music scene. I recently read an overview of Francis' musical career and highlights include receiving a vintage National guitar at age nine from Ry Cooder and taking guitar lessons from Red Hot Chili Peppers' guitarist John Frusciante. Francis is also the younger brother of Juliette Commagere, who fronts Hello Stranger (currently on tour with the Foo Fighters).

The songs on this disc are driven by an equal combination of the instrumentation and Francis' voice. Francis has his sister Juliette Commagere and other female accompanists singing harmonies with him on about half the tracks which provides a bit of light to Francis' weary baritone. One of the standouts tracks is the title track, One By One, which features Commagere's harmonies mixed with a lush arrangement of piano and violins.

In addition to the positive press and a sold out show at the Bowery Ballroom last month, Robert Francis was also nominated for The Shortlist Music Prize for One By One. The Shortlist Music Prize is a music award given annually to an album released in the United States within the last year, as chosen by a panel of musicians, producers and journalists, known as the 'Listmakers'.

This is a strong mature release from a young artist off to a great start. Francis has set the bar high for future releases.