This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 3/02
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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Ah, the dependability of Bob Franke. His CDs can always be counted on to contain at least a couple of cuts, sometimes more, that literally force a casual listener to stop whatever else he or she is doing and take concerted notice. His latest, "The Desert Questions," carries through with this remarkable tradition.
Previous classics in his songwriting pantheon of greatness such as "For Real," "Hard Love," "Alleluia, The Great Storm Is Over," "A Still, Small Voice" and "Thanksgiving Eve," are joined by "Upper Room" and "Love Bravely, Elizabeth," exquisitely moving and intimate songs fleshing out the ebb and flow of the the human spirit.
"Upper Room," a passionate depiction of a disintegrated marriage, mixes Biblical references and metaphor. Franke sings:
"...You swung the hammer, and I pierced the sideHis emotion-laden chorus provides the formula for the relationship's closure:
At cockcrow, we both cried, 'it wasn't me!'
You washed your hands, I betrayed you with a kiss,
But both of us were hanging from that tree..."
"Take it down, wash the bodyThe wisely-worded advice in "Love Bravely, Elizabeth" is an insightful father to daughter gift. Franke sings:
Wrap it in the clothing of the tomb.
When a marriage fails, it's time to gather up the nails,
Find a few friends, and move to an upper room..."
"There are people who search all their lives for a love that is true,Other gems include "Warrior," "El Nino" and "Little White Envelopes," plus a couple of spirituals, "Walkin' In The Wilderness" and "Israelite."
But I hope that you learn that the source of love's truth lies in you.
Even when you have to walk alone, as a child becomes a woman grown,
Love will enfold you, and hold you, and see you through...
So love bravely, Elizabeth, love with a laugh and a song.
Love is your right when the world all around you seems wrong.
It's the hardest thing you'll ever do, but it will be what makes you you:
A loving young woman, so beautiful, kind and strong.
So love bravely."
But not all is dour and serious as the tongue-in-cheek and not-so-tongue in-cheek are well represented. "Go Heal Somewhere Else," in the rhythm and sound of a classic country tune, lampoons the vain frailities of a pair of self-improvement workshop attendees. "Acid Polka," immersed in wonderfully witty rhymes, describes a little wilder than usual polka night down at the local VFW hall.
Franke closes with the optimistic "Sleeping Hearts." A window on the spectrum of the human condition, he sings:
"...Some in search of a savior, some in search of themselves,He then asks:
Some in search of a childhood lost in the dust of musty shelves.
Some remembering their maker, some remembering their shame,
Some remembering another life in the land from which they came..."
"...And if I can't open up to a million in the glare of a morning sun,Do yourself a kind favor and let these wonderful words, thoughts and music provide the impetus for ending any personal wandering in the wilderness and for concluding any separation from that and those who truly nourish and succor.
Give me the grace in that time and place to open up to one..."
Franke, on vocals and acoustic guitar, is assisted by Duke Levine on electric guitar; Paul Bryan on bass guitar; Dave Mattacks on drums and percussion, and Julie Dougherty and Ellen Groves on backing vocals.
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