Station House Records
If his busy tour schedule is any indication, Italy’s Dany Franchi looks to be carving out a nice little niche for himself on the international scene. On Problem Child – recorded last year in Austin under the guidance of veteran guitar slinger Anson Funderburgh and Don Ritter of Category 5 Amps – the young singer/guitarist shows off the full range of his potential. An A-list studio band including bassist Nate Rowe, drummer Wes Starr, keyboard player Jim Pugh and the always reliable Texas Horns provides ideal backing for Franchi’s concise, tasty fretwork and sweet, soulful singing voice. The Genoa native sounds equally at home on straight-up Texas shuffles and in Memphis-flavored R&B, does some Claptonesque riffing on “Wanna Know” and hits the Freddy King lick-fest “Sen-Sa-Shun” out of the park. What sets him apart from many contemporary players – besides his ability to sing! – is the restraint in his playing. Franchi never lays it on too thick and thus sounds right at home amidst this gathering of seasoned pros. – VA
SONG PICK: “Back To The River”
–UNDER THE RADAR RECOMMENDATION –
Has singer/songwriter/guitarist Jackie Venson been flying under the radar, or am I simply late to the party? The Austin native has been releasing material on both EP and LP since 2013 and is coming off a triumphant appearance at the Austin City Limits Festival this fall. Transcends is an EP of five one-word titles (“Flying,” “Fast,” “Mysterious,” “Fight” and “Transcends”) released in 2017. It’s an attention-grabber for sure. It opens with the blues-funk-pop hybrid “Flying,” where snappy rhythms underscore Venson’s luminous voice. “Fast” leans more toward indie-rock, like something Spin Doctors might have done in their heyday. Venson chooses softer tones on “Mysterious” and spreads some serious good vibes on “Fight” (“To change the world you first must change yourself”) and the title track (“Love transcends death, destruction, exploitation…”). Ultimately, the EP is a celebration of peace, love and good intentions; after it’s over, you’re certain Jackie Venson is someone you’d like to spend a few hours with. She has continued releasing singles in 2018 and is definitely worth checking out. – VA
SONG PICK: “Fast”
The No Bullshit Factor
An interview with Sue Foley
Words: Vincent Abbate
Sue Foley is in a good place.
Even though I’ve had a few and she hasn’t – “I’d really love a beer, but don’t want to start drinking yet” – she’s the one who’s in high spirits during our pre-show interview, laughing about life and being back on the road in Europe after a long hiatus. Hot on the heels of The Ice Queen, her first solo album since 2006’s New Used Car, the Ottawa native is a renewed presence on the international blues scene. She refuses to think of it as a comeback.
“That sounds so depressing. It’s not like I went anywhere!”
Let’s consider that for a moment.
Doug MacLeod – “East Texas Sugar”
Doug MacLeod, one of today’s foremost specialists for bottleneck blues and fingerstyle guitar, has displayed his mastery of the craft on literally dozens of worthy compositions during the past 30 some-odd years. On rare occasions, the New York-born, St. Louis-bred, Southern California-based singer and storyteller plays with a full band behind him. More often, he chooses the minimal backing of drums and bass or sometimes just bass. And then there are the times he’ll play all by his lonesome … and you can’t believe it’s only him you’re hearing.
Mike Zito (with Anders Osborne) – “I Was Drunk”
Mike Zito excels through honesty. Instead of trotting out worn clichés, with each new song he opens a window to his soul and allows us a glimpse of what’s going on inside. In his 46 years, Zito has been there and done that, and he wants to let us know what the experience was like, whether it was good, bad or ugly.
He’s been uniquely candid about the addiction issues that sabotaged his early efforts to make it professionally. In the past ten years, hopeful songs such as “Keep Coming Back” and “One Step At A Time” have appeared like signposts to mark his way along the recovery journey.
“I Was Drunk,” written together with Anders Osborne – a man who has dealt with similar problems – takes a darker tack in exploring the misery and self-destructiveness of alcoholism.