Denice Franke is one of my favorite singers. On the one hand you want to take her songs along with you on a long drive, crank up the volume, and get lost in that leather and lace voice. On the other hand, you want to have some quiet time to listen—to really listen—to the lyrics that spell out stories of the people she knows and loves, living in her corner of the Texas Gulf Coast.
Gulf Coast Blue is Franke's third studio recording. It moves her way beyond the promise of her earlier work, and into new and interesting musical territory. The opening tune, Gibraltar" tells a haunting tale of a man who died. No one takes much notice of his passing, except to remember the day that he saved a child who had fallen into a well. Franke wraps her smoky voice around compelling lyrics about a life lived in shadow—forever a mystery. Her backup band is first rate: Andre Moran on electric guitar, Mark Hallman, who doubles as producer on bass, Hammond B3 organ and Stratocaster, and Rick Richards on drums.
Sadness never sounded as good as it does in Weather is Fine, with its pared down production and Franke's simply lovely work on acoustic guitar.
Sergio's Watching is a standout. It's got Franke caressing each and every word with the soft and tender side of her vocal range. She also picks out notes and chords on her guitar that make you take notice of how truly musical she is.
Franke's guitar, engaging vocals, and the sweet sounds of Eliza Gilkyson make Seminole Girl a song that is easy to listen to and hard to forget. It tells the story of the difficult life of a Native American woman who rises above her circumstances to persevere.
I like the gentle blues of Brand New Sky, the quiet intensity of Tara Lee, and the sweet tenderness of Elegance.
The recording ends with Hounds, a powerful story of love crossing the color line, and the tragic brand of justice doled out as a result.
In Gulf Coast Blue, Denice Franke has given us a recording full of memorable tales that read like great fiction and play like some of the best music on the acoustic scene today. It has been seven long years between Franke's last outing, Comfort, and this one. I would hate to wait another seven years for Franke's next production, but if it is going to be as brilliant as this collection, find me a rocker and I will cool my heels. Gulf Coast Blue is one of the best recordings of the year.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Website design by David N. Pyles