"Bob Frank's songs are the proscenium between the personal and the universal... It's been three decades since Bob Frank's first album, the obscure LP on Vanguard... This collection (Keep on Burning) mixes older material with the new, and there's no distinction... Listen to how the words are phrased, how the lines are broken and assembled to the performance. These songs, this record, Bob Frank: time just ain't a factor." - Robert Gordon, author of It Came from Memphis.
"Bob Frank is a counterculture confederate with a capital C whose ribald songs (on his first album) mixed folk balladry, sex, an outlaw social consciousness and really good drugs. That he took about 30 years to follow it up says less about his talent than his inability to suffer the music biz gladly. Yet here he is with two remarkable recent records." (The other one is A Little Gest of Robin Hood, which you can also get at this site.) The above quote came from the nashvillescene.com website, when Bob played at the Bluebird there in October of 2002.
"Back in '72 a gifted Memphis singer-songwriter landed a one-album deal with Vanguard Records, and the eponymous Bob Frank - eventually, a hot collector's item -- earned critical comparisons to Gordon Lightfoot, Ian Tyson and, as one wag put it, 'a barefoot Randy Newman.' Three decades later, Frank resurfaces, with his Memphis chum Jim Dickinson (and assorted players including the North Mississippi Allstars), for the followup. From Latin-flavored border radio rock to Townes Van Zandt-styled talking blues to antiqued Americana in a distinctive Band vein, it's a good-playin', good-storytellin' gem. Welcome back, Mr. Frank - what's on tap for the next 30 years?" Fred Mills, in Goldmine.
"A superb set of songs... richly sung," says Chris Morris in Billboard.
"The album is a blend of country, folk and blues that showcases Frank's supple baritone." Tom Wilk, in No Depression.
Bill Glahn, in Singapore's Big O, says of Bob Frank: "No fame, no fortune... just a lingering and uneasy thought among anyone who had ever heard his Vanguard record... 'Whatever happened to Bob Frank?'"
The album Bill is referring to came out on Vanguard in 1972, called Bob Frank (VSD 6582). It has become a collector's item, selling for as much as $100.00 a copy, and has generated a cult following. Fans have literally made "pilgrimages" to the "shrine" -- a little wooden bench outside a restaurant in Waitsburg, Washington. Bootleg copies of live performances at the Old Quarter in Houston and the Exit/Inn in Nashville are circulated through the underground; reviews of Bob and his songs and his mysterious persona appear on websites and in obscure publications about alternative music; and people are continually mistaking two other musicians for this guy, just because they happen to have the same name... and play music.
But this is the genuine article. This is the real Bob Frank. This is the one they're all looking for. If you listen to this new CD of his "Keep on Burning" maybe you'll see why.
This one was produced by the legendary Jim Dickinson. Jim has produced such unique artists as Ry Cooder, Sleepy John Estes, Jerry "the King" Lawler (that's right, the pro-wrestler), Alex Chilton of the Box Tops, Toots Mayall, Big Star, T Model Ford -- the list is too long. And for thirty years, Jim has been wanting to produce a record on Bob Frank. He's even recorded a couple of Bob Frank songs on records of his own. Jim's version of Bob's "Wild Bill Jones" (James Luther Dickinson, Atlantic 1972) inspired Nick Tosches to poetic heights in his book, Where Dead Voices Gather. As far as Nick knows, Bob Frank was "a Memphis folk singer from the early sixties who made one record for Vanguard and disappeared into obscurity in San Francisco."
Close. But the wrong side of the bay, Nick. Bob disappeared in Oakland.
And while he was gone, some of his songs were being recorded by guys like Chris LeDoux, world champion bronc rider/country music star; Gary McMahan, the "Bob Dylan of cowboy poets"; and the Starlite Ramblers, a Colorado rocky mountain bar band.
"Keep on Burning" has some great musicians on it. For starters, there's two-thirds of the North Mississippi Allstars, Luther and Cody Dickinson (Jim's sons). Then there's Jimbo Mathus of the Squirrel Nut Zippers. Then there's a bunch of other musicians from Memphis and north Mississippi: "T-Bone" Tommy Burroughs, Sid Selvidge, Jimmy Crosthwait -- some of these guys were in Mudboy and the Neutrons, a group Bob Dylan called "the band nobody can find." And finally, there's Jim Dickinson himself, playing the keyboards on here.
So what sort of music is this, and what's so great about this guy, Bob Frank?
Well, for a little background, here's what music critics said about that first album:
"A fantastic piece of Southern folk music." Bill Glahn in Big O.
"Incredible lyricist." Record World
"Natural singer and story teller, who does both well." The Walrus Report
"He paints pictures with his words." River City Review
"A barefoot Randy Newman." Boston After Dark
"Some of his songs are potential minor classics. In 'Cold Canadian Pines,' he evokes a sense of beautiful desolation, the mood equivalent of Canadian tundra, as deftly as Lightfoot or Ian Tyson." Boston After Dark
"Bob Frank is a reflexive mouthpiece of America. His songs, music and singing tell the story of American life as it is now and was in the past. His album is a folk masterpiece. He creates an audience out of people who are not folk music fans, such as myself. And finally, the potential for a folk superstar is there." Alex Calabrese in the Stockton College Review.
Alex might have been clairvoyant if Bob hadn't disappeared.
The music on Keep on Burning is a variety of ten Bob Frank songs, some old and some new. Ten short stories, each in a different musical setting, each told in the strong lyrics that are a Bob Frank trademark. Southern songs, western songs, a barrelhouse boogie truck driving song, a dixieland number, a country-rock love song, a TexMex mariachi song, and one song that was on that old Vanguard album and has achieved legendary status among homegrown backporch pickers and folksingers, the infamous story of Judas Iscariot, this time appearing in the original version that actually came to Bob in a dream, whole cloth. Word for word. Note for note. This is one you won't hear at Sunday School, but really, you should hear it at Sunday School, because it's the only way you'll ever get to hear Judas' side of the story.
Bob has been getting great reviews on this album in Billboard, No Depression, Goldmine, Big O, Rock 'N' Rap Confidential -- and websites and newspapers all across the continent are raving about it. But don't take anybody else's word for it. Buy it right now, right here, at cdbaby, and see for yourself what all the fuss is about. You won't regret it. I guarantee it! All Bob Frank songs have a 30 year guarantee on them.
And remember. Whatever life sends your way... squeeze it easy!
Check out the artist's website:
1. Journey to Myself
2. Since the Midway Came to Town
4. Back to Ensenada
5. Break My Heart Again
6. Out on the Prairie
7. Judas Iscariot
8. Old Truckers
9. With Sabers in Our Hands