Alive Naturalsound Records

Independent record label based in LA. Home to The Black Keys, Two Gallants, Buffalo Killers, Radio Moscow, Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires, Hacienda, John The Conqueror, Brian Olive, Black Diamond Heavies, Left Lane Cruiser, T-Model Ford, Thomas Function, Waves Of Fury, etc. More at

Thursday, June 26, 2008

RON FRANKLIN - Crawdaddy!

Last Crawdaddy! heard from Ron Franklin he was recording the follow-up to his debut solo album, the garage roots City Lights, anticipating it would be more garage, less roots, and feature a drummer. In the end, Franklin's self-titled second commercial solo release is actually all that (but without the drummer). Recorded for Alive (the label where Two Gallants and the Black Keys made their debuts), the absence of a band or a second body just keeping time is hardly a detriment to his sound; one reviewer found it so compelling he even referred to "percussion" on the new tracks!

Franklin's armorless, one-guy-on-vulnerable-vocals-precision-guitar-and-fine-tuned-vintage-equipment approach does indeed project a full sound, contributing to his songs' immediacy, intimacy, and intrigue. But it's the mysterious power of their words that draw me further into Franklin's daydreamy orbit of old world imagery and its adjacency to modern expression-the kind of place where goth girls hang out at the old-time picture show.

Coming on blustery with the electric "Western Movies", he pulls back with the fingerpicked acoustic "Call It a Night", then amps up and grunges out with "Dark Night Cold Ground" (the kind of tale from the underbelly of life that the Cramps might lay waste to, in a good way). "The Elocutionist" conjures medicine shows and some famous fairytales as it rides on the rhythm of Franklin's electric. "All Along a Summer's Day" is probably the bluesiest thing here, a stay-on-the-chord, boogie drone, with a tight narrative about temptation.

Though seemingly death-obsessed ("Do Not Wait 'Til I am Laid 'Neath the Clay" is among the many references to graveyards and the like), Franklin is hardly a death-rocker. Rather, he is full of life, like one of his heroes, Jimmie Rodgers, whose yodel he tries on "Do Not Wait..." and whose image he conjures in "Dear, Marianne", a poetic epic of our times torn asunder. I am in awe of this elegiac version of "Marianne" just as I was the first time I heard it (live, as well as on one of Franklin's handmade recordings). But as I attempt to collect my jaw from the floor, Franklin knocks me out with a simple acoustic ballad of love and repentance, "That's Just the Love I Have 4U", which has me nearly laid out in lavender.

Franklin's theme songs of cars and women derive their greatest feelings from the combination of familiar song fragments and characters he grafts on to his personal brand of heartache. Universal concepts like "ain't got no home" and "in the pines" as well as Franklin's own "see me in the darkness of my daytime" are straightforward enough, but pondering the meaning of his more psychedelic images like "Tell Jimmy James I hear them coming / I got his back if he do as much for me," has kept me happily occupied for weeks.

Occasionally, Franklin lets his humor fly but his juxtapositions of the lingua franca of the times combined with his deep roots and picaresque references to the bygone era are what keep me coming back for more. I think it's the audacity of his approach that I like-yes, audacity just might be Ron Franklin's secret weapon. - Denise Sullivan / Crawdaddy!

No comments:

Blog Archive

Powered by Blogger.