A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
Denice Franke has a rich, dark alto, as fine as good Belgian chocolate. Emerging out of the lively Texas music scene, Franke's work has been promoted by the likes of Lyle Lovett and Nanci Griffith. |
Comfort is Franke's sophomore recording, a compelling, mature and engaging followup to her 1997 debut, You Don't Know Me. In the three years between projects, Franke has honed her already considerable skills, producing a recording that is so good it is sure to appear on many best of the year lists.
Franke is simply one of the best songwriters around. Take Kindred Skin, for example. It is an achingly pretty love song played to perfection by Franke on guitar, with Mike Sumler's eloquent phrasing on paino, and John Hagen on cello. How can you not love lyrics like these:
Franke has a way with portraying difficult situations and their attendant emotions in song. Hard Comin' Home is one of these. Describing a life where one is at home, and the other is always leaving, things degenerate to the point where "I never would have done if you hadn't said/ never would have said if you hadn't did/ never would have done if you hadn't done it to me."
Let Me Go is about the moment when you know that your relationship is for naught - when you know that it is just about to fall apart, and that it takes just one to let the other go. Franke has the uncanny ability to describe the feelings of that moment in only a few poignant lyrics. And her voice takes us along with her on that journey into dark, new territory. It is absolutely haunting and lovely at the same time. John Hagen on cello is especially good here.
All is not sad and lost in Franke's world. One of the recording's best cuts is Friends Out There, which celebrates the connections we make with others.
The CD closes with a tune called Dance to the Moon, introduced by a wonderful solo on saxophone by Eric Denmer. Life is just a dance "with no band playin' music/ no feet keepin' score/ no band playin' music, no feet keepin' score."
Eric Taylor has produced Franke's work with just the right mix of players employing fairly uncomplicated arrangements. You will also find his touch on nearly every tune, whether it's playing acoustic guitar, bass or providing harmony vocals.
Denice Franke's Comfort provides just that and more. It clearly chronicles the difficulties of watching a relationship unravel, but there is little gloom and doom here. Franke's rich vocals and expert lyric making lead the way to a brighter tomorrow. Comfort is a stunning success, and an important work. Denice Franke is clearly on the road to something big.