A&E » Arts

Francey’s lyrics show Canadian life



Folk singer keeps his music essential and uncluttered

Who: David Francey

Where : MY (Millennium) Place

When: Thursday, Oct. 9, 8 p.m.

Tickets : $15-$18.

The sky above the skating rink

The blackened weight of space

Falls endless on the frozen world

Upon the saving grace

Of the lights around the skating rink

Laughing in the face

Of the darkness at the lonely heart of winter

— Skating Rink by David Francey

Ayer's Cliff Quebec, Feb.19, 2002

Even though he was awarded a Juno award last year in the Best Roots and Traditional Album for his second CD, Far End of Summer , David Francey claims he still doesn’t really have a handle on what roots music is.

"To be perfectly honest, I’m a little vague on ‘roots music.’ I’m not exactly sure what the term means. Rap music could be ‘roots’ music too, if it comes right off the street," he muses.

Francey is definitely not a rapper. The eastern Canadian solo artist sings laid-back folksy tunes in a voice as warm as apple cider, laced with a hint of brogue that betrays him as a Scottish ex-pat. He does have a few tunes that deal with the streets, but they’re the streets seen while pondering the scene from a hotel window, or lonely country roads in a winter sunset.

After mulling the term over he comes to the conclusion that roots music is the music that has a direct tie to life experience, the source of most of his material. It’s that ability to portray familiarity, to make people reminisce, that has audiences embracing the salt-of-the-earth folksman.

"That’s a very common theme in talking to people after shows or at the break," says Francey. "A lot of people see themselves in the songs and see their situation in the songs, or people they know. There’s a certain amount of recognition there on various levels."

There are few Canadian’s, young or old, that wouldn’t recognize the scene described in the third verse of the song skating rink, one of 13 tunes from his third album of the same name, which he recently finished just in time for the summer folk festival circuit. Francey toured from one end of the country to the other last summer, breaking just barely to make the move from the eastern townships of Quebec to rural Ontario.

He capped off the season with a performance in Tønder, Denmark at the end of August.

"I was a bit nervous because of the language," says Francey. "I deal so much in lyrics, that’s the importance of it for me, so I thought, ‘how is this ever going to fly in Denmark?"

Fortunately, the majority of Danes have excellent English language skills and the performance was well received.

"They got the jokes, so I was really pleased," he adds.

It’s this emphasis on lyrics that has defined Francey’s music from the beginning and will continue to define it as long as he records. While he admits when he started recording he didn’t know his "arse from a hole in the ground about studios and stuff," the one thing he did know was that he wanted to avoid cluttering up his music with over-production and non-essential instrumentation.

"I remember the first album. We could have done all this stuff, and I remember saying to everyone: ‘no, I don’t want it. No, I don’t want it. No, I don’t want it,’" says Francey. "I’ve said that through three albums… I like the lyrics to be up front, I like the lyrics to be heard. When I listen to music, that’s the music I’m drawn to, minimal arrangement and a lot of emphasis on the vocals. I’ve had that in mind for the last three albums… I like people to hear the lyric and understand it completely and plainly and not have to lean in toward the stereo to hear it over what you’re adding, the tuba solo, or whatever."

David Francey takes the stage at MY Place on Thursday, Oct. 9, sans tuba. He will, however, be accompanied by guitarist Dave Clarke. Tickets $15-$18 at the MY Place box office.

Fans of both Francey and Canadian folk icon Valdy, who will be performing on Oct. 15, can purchase tickets for both shows at a discounted rate. Call 604-935-8410 for more information.

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