A Familiar Fire
Detroit's Stewart Francke has received notable praise throughout his career, collaborated with Bruce Springsteen, and has opened for the likes of artists such as Steve Earle and Sheryl Crowe. In short, he is no amateur. On his 14th album A Familiar Fire, he explores a variety of genres through a plethora of moods and tones. While the 11 tracks on the record derive from varying influences, there is still a cohesive thread throughout the songs: one that both evokes and challenges the definition of "classic". It was produced by Bryan Reilly at Birmingham's RMS Studio, and is, according to Francke, his "best work to date as far as accessibility and variety in the songwriting."
Tracks like "Raining in Saginaw" and "Tupelo Honey" are acoustic, country-tinged ballads that are slow moving and nostalgic. Opener "Wave", "Love's Very Marrow" and "Heart of Fire" are more straightforward classic rock songs with an emphasis on guitar and intertwined vocal harmonies. But the best songs on A Familiar Fire are the ones that demonstrate what Dave Marsh means when he says Francke "stand[s] courageously at the intersection of rock and soul music, equally influenced by Marvin Gaye and Brian Wilson." "Time to Listen/When the Cops Stop Knockin'" deftly combines soul and jazz elements into a groovy jam that is vaguely reminiscent of a Cockburn cut, political lyrics and all. Other strong tracks in this vein are "Chelaine", "Final Fandango" and closer "My Old School", which all possess bluesy sensibilities and soulful vocal harmonies. It may seem at first to be a bit of a hodge-podge of stylings jammed into one package, but A Familiar Fire is a fun and engaging listen that spans several genres and illustrates Francke's seasoned ability to move between them with utter ease.
Recommended Tracks: #2 "Pylons", #4 "Time to Listen/When the Cops Stop Knockin'", #9 "Tupelo Honey"