Once A Day

Nick West's reviews for Bucketfull Of Brains and Rock'N'Reel

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Location: London, United Kingdom

Co-editor and publisher of Bucketfull Of Brains since 1996.

Friday, December 05, 2008


BOB FRANK

The Vanguard Album
(DECOR)
www.decorrecords.com

The murder ballad collection, World Without End, recorded with John Murry, has drawn attention to Bob Frank’s eponymous 1972 Vanguard release. Fortunately it hasn’t taken long for Décor to arrange its reissue, along with a batch of contemporary demos.

It shows him a spare and precise songwriter imbued with that same spirit found on Mickey Newbury’s Frisco Mabel Joy; the sense of defeat and aimlessness after the demise of the 60s dream. These are songs about winos, bums, and draft dodgers. ‘She Pawned Her Diamond For Some Gold’ is about persuading your girlfriend to sell her ring to buy dope, ‘Waitsburg’ tells what happens when you buy drink and go driving around. ‘Return To Skid Row Joe’, a marvellously constructed, poetic epiphany, shows the moment when you can’t avoid seeing what you’ve become.

Vietnam is an unspoken presence. ‘Cold Canadian Pines’, an affecting lament for the refuseniks in Canada, is contrasted with ‘When Johnny Was Called By The Draft Board’, just proving you’re damned both ways.

There’s also ‘Judas Iscariot’, a fine take on the Jesus story owing a debt to ‘Frankie Lee And Judas Priest’, and thus pointing to John Wesley Harding, a record this stands comparison to.

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