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Denise Franke – Gulf Coast Blues

 

Texas songwriter Denice Franke’s fourth solo disc sounds as though its inspiration could have come from nowhere but that mystical area the title references, where cowboy country meets the ocean; where “big” gives way to the unfathomably immense and creative thoughts are reduced, but not lessened, to an elemental uncomplicated naturalness.

Franke’s straightforward approach to songwriting and singing is so appealing for its own sake that the what – her acoustic guitar playing, her lyrical narrative and her womanly alto – is almost secondary to the how. Like a cool glass of spring water, Franke’s homespun music needs no artificial color or flavor; not that the well-fitted backing she receives, notably from guitarists Robert McEntee and Mark Holliman (who also plays bass, Hammond B3 and, occasionally, drums) is gild on the lily. The band gives able support, even adding to the eloquent sparseness of the disc’s atmosphere. But Franke has things covered. As musician, writer, and singer, she can stand with the best with no more than her own guitar and her original country-tinged folk songs to depend on. When she sings “Oh, to be a string of pearls around your neck” she describes her work; everything besides voice, guitar, and song serves to highlight – not misdirect or disguise. Appropriately the quote comes from a song called “Elegance.” Earlier on the disc, in “Seminole Girl” Franke sings, “She ain’t no fool, boy”; there is definitely no doubt about that.

This article originally appeared in VG‘s Oct. ’08 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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