Stewart Francke by Stewart Francke.
Detroit based recording artist Stewart Francke has been an engaging fixture on the music scene for more than 20 years. Highly respected for his many talents and wildly popular for his live performances, Francke has won several accolades over his career including 13 Detroit Music Awards for, among other things, Best Artist, Songwriter and Album, as well as a “Most Popular Musician” designation, and, a lifetime achievement award from his hometown of Saginaw. Offering a compilation of regional hits for his local fans and an introduction of his music to a wider global audience not yet familiar with him, Francke has released a collection of his top songs. The eight track self- titled EP, Stewart Francke, is available now.
One thing to know about Francke is that the man knows how to tell a story through his songwriting. He wastes no time showcasing that gift as the EP opens on a powerful note with the somber “Summer Soldier (Holler If Ya Hear Me).” Singing from the perspective of a young soldier who lays dying on the battlefield for a war he doesn’t quite understand as part of a military he loves, Francke leaves listeners feeling as if they know him. Francke enlisted the help of long time admirer and rock icon Bruce Springsteen whose distinct gravely vocals can be heard in the chorus hollering back. Francke then changes things up and moves into “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.” A song about the locals who hang out at a Detroit bar, this track has a modern country feel to it and the female vocals nicely compliment Francke’s. Starting off deceptively mellow, it is on once the chorus hits so turn up the volume and sing along. Resistance is futile.
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More than one person has mentioned the phrase “blue-eyed soul” when talking about Francke and “Sam Cooke’s on The Radio” is the perfect example of this. Francke and his band do a fantastic job of musically creating a retro vibe that falls somewhere between the 60s and 80s. The incredible horn work here only adds to this soulful R&B track before he moves into the uptempo “House of Lights.” A thoughtful look at keeping a family unit solid, “House of Lights” is both contemporary and classic and has some truly stand out guitar playing.
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“Two Guitars Bass and Drums” is right up there with “Summer Soldier” in the songwriting department. Opening in a way that, for some reason, made me think of a toned down Queen, “Two Guitars Bass and Drums” allows Francke’s vocals to shine particularly bright as he reminisces about old times with good friends. “Heart of a Heartless World” is another personal favorite and a song about life following the death of his parents. Francke’s vocal delivery manages to be smooth while also having just a touch of sadness to them as he sings, “I’ve been up/I’ve been down/From the sky to the ground/Looking for the heart of a heartless world.” Instrumentally, “Heart of a Heartless World” is solid with noteworthy playing on drums, guitar and keyboard.
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Stewart Francke begins to wind down with the heartfelt “Letter From Ten Green.” This amazingly touching track is delivered, as the title says, like he is reading from a letter, and the emotion runs deep with his effective vocals leading the way. Closing out the EP is a live performance of “Upon Seeing Simone.” It’s been said that if you want to truly hear how someone sounds, you need to hear them live and on “Upon Seeing Simone,” you get to do just that. The result? Francke sounds great. His backing band sounds great. Put them all together and they are as tight an outfit as I have heard on a live track and sound just as good if not better than recorded quality. Not only is that increasingly rare in the modern music age, it is an absolute testament to talent which flows from Francke in abundance.
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With incredibly tight arrangements, high level songwriting and melodies that hook you in, Stewart Francke’s self-titled, eight track EP is a top notch collection of songs that show you what he’s got. He is an artist at his core and as such, never stays inside just one box. You’re just as likely to hear some classic rock as you are glimmers of soul, folk or R&B on this release and that’s part of what keeps it all interesting. Whether you’re a long time fan or brand new to his work, the sheer musicality of the listening experience is bound to win you over. If you’re in the market for some passion filled music from the heart set to many different tunes, it’s time you get to know Stewart Francke.
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