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Twilight in Tolleson — Bob’s new CD. Check it out!

twilight in tollesonChuck Giamalvo, Bob’s friend and co-writer down in Arizona, produced this CD of Bob singing 12 songs that he and Chuck wrote over the past few years. They recorded it in Chuck’s studio in Tolleson, with some local Arizona pickers and the Arizona Angels, two ladies from Phoenix that put some heavenly harmonies on it.

The songs are a good mix of different styles and stories, from riverboat gamblers and truck drivers to lonesome lovers and one old guy who lost everything he had, but saved his heart for her. Bob usually writes story songs, like old cowboy songs or folk music, and Chuck usually writes classic country music like was popular back in the ’60’s, so as Chuck says in the liner notes, they have come up with some material here that neither one of them would have written on their own.

It’s available right now on cdbaby, or you can get it direct from Bob!  Or you can get it right here! Don’t push, don’t shove, there’s plenty here for one and all!

Sample:  Riverboat Gambler  

 

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Bob Frank, Vanguard, 1972 —

Reissued on Light in the Attic records, in vinyl as well as CD. Don’t wait! Buy it now, or your children will reproach you in later life for such an uncalled for lack in their education!

“Awesome down home Southern Fried Acid Folky Blues stoner vibe rarity, ‘She Pawned Her Diamond for some Gold’ tells the story of the girl who smoked her last bowl, and penniless needed s’more, so she… Killer. Really scarce LP and brings a $100 in circles, dig??? I thought you did.” — description of Vanguard album being auctioned off on ebay.

A collector’s item, this is the record that created a cult following all over the world.

This album has been reissued on Light in the Attic, a prestigious label that if you don’t know about, you should check it out right now!

Sample:  She Pawned Her Diamond for Some Gold.

Here’s how Bob looked when he played this song at the Arkansas Folk Festival in 1973. You can’t see his feet in this photo. Too bad, cause he’s not wearing any shoes. The original barefoot hippie, he threw away his shoes in 1969, and never got another pair til sometime in the ’70’s.

“… a counterculture confederate with a capital C whose ribald songs mixed folk balladry, sex, an outlaw social conscience and really good drugs. That he took about 30 years to follow it up says less about his talent than his inability to suffer the music biz gladly.” — J.R., Nashville Scene

“… an outlaw songwriter’s outlaw songwriter, a Vietnam veteran …tougher than Kristofferson and more spry than Cash, an often-jolly light in typically dark corners.” — Grayson Haver Currin, Pitchfork

 Sample: “Judas Iscariot”

Categories: Buy CDs, Vanguard | 24 Comments

World Without End

You’ve heard of death metal; well, this here is death country-folk, and a more gruesome collection of songs you will not hear this or any other year. Bob Frank is a California-based, 62-year-old, late-blooming maverick roots singer-songwriter who once played with the likes of Townes Van Zandt; he has teamed up with John Murry to make a “murder ballads album,” but instead of revisiting the familiar catalogue of traditional tunes, they’ve written 10 of their own, based on actual events, and notably shorn of any moral tone. This makes grim if compelling listening — murder, rape, pillage, nooses, knives and mayhem — from the story of Little Wiley Harpe in 1805, to Bubba Rose’s dark deeds in 1961. The music is suitably sepia-toned, hushed vocals cowled in a gaunt mesh of steel guitar and evocative picking. Not easy to like but impossible to ignore. — Joe Breen, Irish Times.       sample: Joaquin Murietta, 1853

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Brinkley, Arkansas, & Other Assorted Love Songs

Sample: Just to Be With You

Bob Frank and John Murry, two Southern ex-pats (the former hailing from Memphis, Tennessee, and Murry being from Tupelo, Mississippi) living in the San Francisco Bay Area and separated by nearly a forty year age difference, have created a more-than-worthy follow-up to their critically acclaimed 2006 release, “World Without End”. That release was a gruesome collection of true murder ballads, co-written by Frank and Murry and hailed by critics worldwide as a both timeless and timely meditation on death, destruction, and American violence. Perhaps, then, it follows naturally (or at least “naturally” according to Frank and Murry) that their newest record, “Brinkley, Ark. and Other Assorted Love Songs”, though very much a departure aesthetically, focuses just as heavily on loss; this time, not the loss of life but of lost love and of longing.

Dubbed “redneck soul” by Frank, Murry, and their long-time producer Tim Mooney, the album is filled with Memphis horns, Muscle Shoals rhythms, Mississippi gospel organ, and fiery Southern Rock-influenced guitar work that encapsulates the strong and emotionally honest songwriting of Frank and Murry.

The songs themselves span nearly forty years, with some having been written by Frank immediately after his tour of duty in Vietnam. Creating the record was an idea that occurred to Murry when he was staying at Bob’s house and found a box of old reel to reel demo tapes.  He was staying at Bob’s house at the time because he had separated from his wife and, in the midst of the heartache, found refuge in Bob’s forgotten songs. These songs inspired John to write his own, and the resulting record is a seamless mixture of Frank and Murry’s songs, chronicling the heartbreak of love lost.

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Keep on Burning

Keep on Burning

“… a stirring collection of recent songs and old favorites produced by Memphis shaman Jim Dickinson, with backing by members of the North Mississippi All-Stars and Mudboy & the Neutrons.” — J.R. Nashville Scene

Sample: Since the Midway Came to Town

This is, after all, where this rock and roll mess began: a human being and a guitar. Bob Frank stands naked on stage, baring his soul in a coffee house. Except for the fashion on the clothes (he’s not really naked), it could be any year, any time, any place.

In the early part of the 1960s, they called it a hootenanny. Jim Dickinson, whose career was moving in a decidedly theatrical direction, appreciated the power of folk music (he’d first retired from rock and roll in 1959). Dickinson had helped found the Market Theater in Memphis, a jook of a performance space, and was way off into the Sunday afternoon musical free-for-alls.

Dickinson didn’t know Bob Frank from Wild Bill Jones when Frank stepped to the stage with his guitar in hand. Bob Frank sang “With Sabers in Our Hands” and Dickinson damn sure set to finding out who he was. Frank had been thrown out of Vanderbilt University for playing his acoustic guitar too loud. A friendship was born.

Bob got to make a record for Vanguard way back when, Dickinson cut Frank’s “Wild Bill Jones” on his legendary 1972 solo album, and Bob moved out west, finding his way mostly out of the music biz, though he never strayed too far from the guitar.

Bob Frank’s songs are the proscenium between the personal and the universal. I was a kid in Memphis when the Cotton Carnival used to be on the riverfront. I immediately conjured that image, and all the conflicted emotions, the excitement and the emptiness that follows, when I listened to “Since the Midway Came to Town” on this album. I believe anyone would feel the same thing, hearing lyrics about a midway, fireworks, and the “good gal” that “packed her grip and gone across the Mississipp.” Frank is unflinching, letting it all wash so impersonally down the mighty river.

This disc includes a trucker’s song (I’ll never pass a Peterbilt on the highway without thinking of “Old Truckers”), a hippie-era ballad (“Journey to Myself”), even a gospel song about a different kind of revelation (Vanguard made him censor it; it’s here in its original form). But most fascinating is the Civil War ballad, “With Sabers in Our Hands,” which sounds like it came marauding off an 1864 battlefield letter writ in blood. But Bob Frank wrote that one too.

I just went back to check a song lyric and was shocked to hear the other instruments on the track. I’d remembered the performance as just Frank and his guitar. Now that’s perfect accompaniment (provided by the Dickinson family); it fleshes out the solo artist’s feel without diluting his strength.

It’s been three decades since Bob Frank’s first album, the obscure LP on Vanguard (I’d like to buy yours if it’s just collecting dust). This collection mixes older material with the new, and there’s no distinction. He locked into his songwriting mode back then, and it’s worked ever since; he’s had no reason to get a new Peterbilt. He’s been this good for that long. Listen to how the words are phrased, how the lines are broken and assembled to the performance.

These songs, this record, Bob Frank: time just ain’t a factor. — Robert Gordon, author of It Came from Memphis.

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Red Neck, Blue Collar

If you write and perform “Judas Iscariot” in humorous talking-blues fashion, you’d better get it right! On Red Neck, Blue Collar, Bob Frank navigates between the rocks with his insistent yet expertly nuanced voice, his basic-but-skilled guitar playing, and a bouncy Jew’s harp signaling light-hearted intent — all crisply picked up by recording, mixing, and mastering at three different Memphis facilities.

But an unmistakable moral seriousness runs through all 11 of Frank’s refreshing songs. His skepticism toward authority and institutions informs the deep respect his ballads show for human dignity when uncoupled from status and wealth. This lends credibility to his explicit claim of being a folksinger despite writing his own material. Regarding the elitist claims that we’re all “one big family” and “in the same boat,” Frank says, “If this is how they treat their fam’ly / I feel sorry for all their kin.”

That’s a representative swatch of the pithy chambray fabric Frank’s words weave, hitting them with a couple of words banned from TV while waxing awestruck toward us who face life-and-death decisions when their trucks and trains turn lethal. He isn’t obsequiously generous: The album’s just over 38 minutes long. He doesn’t indulge himself. There are no jams or even long instrumental introductions or endings.

Where’s Frank been all these years that we’ve needed his kind of artist? Well, Vanguard released his eponymous LP in 1972. Legend has it that at the release party Vanguard gave him he played a set with no songs from the album. Applying his irreverence to his label meant no follow-up album. We can only hope that won’t be the case this time. – David J. Cantor, Soundstage.    Sample: Out on the Prairie

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Ride the Restless Wind

He’s a masterful songwriter and very striking vocalist whose songs have been recorded by numerous vocalists and groups, yet Bob Frank is another of those names well respected among musicians and generally unknown to the broader audience. Some of that may be due to a limited catalog, something that makes any of his releases a newsworthy event. His newest is Ride The Restless Wind (Bowstring), and it has 12 songs that range from great story tunes like “Monroe, Louisiana, Pipeliners’ Brawl” to “Luther Brown” and “Painted Arrow.” There are also numbers with equal parts humor and irony such as “Within A Few Degrees” and the tune “Buckskin Lady” that’s been covered by among others Chris Ledoux and the Starlite Ramblers. Frank’s pieces are always highly literate, superbly crafted and frequently provocative. They’re far too witty and original to get much radio airplay, but they shouldn’t be missed by anyone seeking smart, well performed and entertaining music that’s neither dry nor predictable. — Ron Wynn, Nashville City Paper    Sample: Holy Ground

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Pledge of Allegiance

“This music is that rare slice of Americana that gets passed over these days by too many hurried folks.  It’s that breath of authentic fresh air mixed with serendipity — like happening upon a forgotten coffee house and discovering a genuine troubadour inside who isn’t afraid to sing about what’s really on everybody’s mind.  He understands the sentiments of the average Joe because he is one.  Unlike society, the troubadour hasn’t changed his ways in all these years, he’s merely become more seasoned in the experience.  Such is Bob Frank’s Pledge of Allegiance CD.  The payoff is like running across some treasure we’d once enjoyed and then set aside.  Now we recall how much we’ve missed it.”  — Hoover, “The Lost Outlaw.”

“Frank’s ‘pledge’ has nothing to do with blind allegiance to his country. It’s a pledge to what he obviously feels a more personal loyalty to — the working class that made that country great.”  — Bill Glahn, Community Free Press

Sample: One Big Family

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A Little Gest of Robin Hood

“… an engrossing acoustic adaptation of the 456-stanza 15th century narrative poem.” — J.R. Nashville Scene

 

Sample: First Fit: Little John, Much and Scarlett bring the gentle knight to the  greenwood tree to eat dinner.

 

“This is one of the best CDs I’ve bought — and I buy tons of em. This guy makes this 15th century poem totally accessible. You get completely wrapped up in the strange universe of Robin Hood, and at the same time you almost feel like you’re listening to a Clint Eastwood movie. It’s just a guy and his guitar, but the impeccably played music provides leitmotivs for the characters and emotions that sucks you in. I hope this is only the first in a series of CDs that updates the bard tradition. People I know who are into James Bond love this CD.” — Jane Lanctot.

Praise from Fans and Professionals

What happens when a 20th century songwriter meets the oldest Robin Hood ballad in the world?

Magic.

“This is how they must have done it, this is how all of them did it. This is how Homer did it.” – Douglas Gray, retired Oxford Don.

“Your performances were fantastic — you can imagine what it sounded like when it was performed 500 years ago. You may not realize it but, linguistically, the American Southern dialect is directly related to the Midlands dialect of Middle English! Yes, it is true.” – Thomas Ohlgren, Professor of English, Purdue University, editor of Medieval Outlaws and co-editor of Robin Hood and Other Outlaw Tales.

“Bob Frank has earned his place in the 700 year old tradition of troubadours who have rhymed of Robin Hood. Somewhere, those who sang, those who wrote down and those who lived the events he sings about, are smiling.”
– Seth Feldman, creator of the Canadian radio show, “Hunting Robin Hood.”

Bob, who earned a degree in English from Rhodes College in Memphis, translated the 600-year-old poem, A Lyttle Geste of Robyn Hode, first printed by Wynken de Worde in the 1500’s, from late Middle English into modern English, preserving the rhyme and immediacy of the legend. And then he set it to music. Encouraged by Professor Thomas Ohlgren (Purdue University), Bob performed the first two fits at a Robin Hood Conference at the University of Western Ontario in June of 2001. The response was overwhelmingly positive. Professors  asked for a CD that they could use in their classes to awaken an appreciation for the old literature in their students.

“Many thanks for doing this — your performance was the high point of the conference for me.” – Richard Green, Professor of English, University of Western Ontario.

“I was expecting something off-puttingly authentic and instead I got something that sounded alive.  It seemed to me that you struck the exact right balance between introducing variations in the walking base line, the modes, and the rhythms for the purposes of drama without going too far. I think that’s what made listening to your version of the Gest so completely delightful for me.” – Chris Chism, Professor of English, Rutgers University.
“I really look forward to hearing the Gest on a CD. I think my students would very much appreciate it.” – Stephen Knight, Professor of English, University of Wales, co-editor of Robin Hood and Other Outlaw Tales.

All of this enthusiasm, and support for a recorded version of Bob’s performance of the Gest from these professors in the UK, Canada and the states, inspired Bob to put the entire Gest on a CD with original guitar accompaniment. In order to retain the immediacy and life of the poem, he committed the entire 456 stanzas to memory.The CD, A Little Gest of Robin Hood, is now completed. The response continues to be enthusiastic. Bob has been invited to perform the Gest at the world’s largest Medieval Congress, held at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, in May of 2002.

“I have indeed listened to it and loved it — I really had expected to be disappointed just a little, because your own live performance was so good, but so much was conveyed that I was completely delighted… I’m buying them on behalf of students (in my next semester course which is still in the future).” – Chris Chism, Professor of English, Rutgers University.

“I’m really in awe of the witty modernization of some lines very, very impressive. And your delivery is just perfect! Dramatic, witty, warm, thoroughly human it really demonstrates that the Gest was meant to entertain people, not sit in some dusty book on a dusty shelf. I think you’ve done the legend a great service.” – Allen Wright, webmaster of Robin Hood, Bold Outlaw of Barnsdale and Sherwood.

“Hi Bob, I’d like to order five copies of your CD 2 for faculty, 1 for the library, and 2 for students. I’ll announce the availability in my Robin Hood class next semester.” – Thomas Ohlgren, Professor of Medieval Studies, Purdue University.

“Hi Bob, This is great and just before Christmas! I am just slowly easing my way into the Middle Ages in my classes, so, if I can receive the CD in the next couple of weeks I can play it for them.” – Laura Blunk, Professor of History, Cuyahoga Community College, Highland Hills, Ohio.

“Dear Bob: I received your CD today in the afternoon . It’s GREAT!!! Congrats!!! All my team group of teachers were delighted the way you could transform something hard to be understood by kids (mainly non native ones) Thanks a lot once again and let me know your address to send the CD back to you. It really fits for kids aged 11 on …Best regards for you and your family.” –  Mary Joe Areso, a school teacher in Argentina.

“My course that includes Robin Hood is taught Feb-May. I’d order a CD for me and a couple for our library and recommend the students to buy it.” – Helen Phillips, Professor of English, Liverpool, England.

A lot of folks are really excited about this latest development in the oral tradition of a beautiful old Medieval ballad. But don’t take their word for it. Order a copy of A Little Gest of Robin Hood today, and see – or hear – for yourself what all the fuss is about.

Categories: A Little Gest of Robin Hood, Buy CDs | 11 Comments

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