Bob Frank – True Stories And Outrageous Lies
Rip Cat Records – 2018
11 tracks; 35 minutes
Although Bob Frank has spent a lifetime in the blues and roots music field and recorded several albums with the band Blue Lunch this is his first solo release and it’s a good acoustic album with plenty of well-written songs, mostly with amusing lyrics. Bob wrote all bar one song here (the traditional “Stavin’ Chain”), sings, plays guitar, mandolin and harmonica.
Most of the songs are solo acoustic but on one Mike Balas plays electric guitar, Eddie Mars piano, Ron Jarvis electric bass and Rodney Reisman drums; on another cut Jen Mauer helps out on vocals and Ray DeForest plays upright bass; Bill Watson plays upright bass on one track and tuba on three, being joined on the final track of the album by Norman Tischler (clarinet), Chris Burge (alto sax), Bob Michael (trombone) and Mike Rubin (trumpet).
The album opens with a trio of solo acoustic pieces, the first two exploring problem relationships. “Low Down Dirty Ways” takes the classic blues theme of the woman who is out all night, clearly having an affair. Bob has had enough, especially when he finds that “you smell like cigarettes and neither of us smokes” and that she has “got on someone else’s drawers”! However, Bob is not immune to bad behavior, as he confesses in “Married Woman Blues” where all is not as cheery as you might imagine, as she is married to a policeman who is aware of the affair – watch out Bob! The sense of humor is even more evident on “Chinese Knock-Off”, the term he uses for a so-called friend who cannot be trusted: “I should have counted my fingers when I shook hands with you”.
“People Don’t Change” is a full band number with piano, guitars and a rhythm section, a tuneful bittersweet song with a touch of country, especially from the steel guitar, making a nice contrast with the solo pieces. “Come On Babe And Ride With Me” is a jaunty little number with Jen’s harmony vocals as Bob plays mandolin and blows some high-pitched harp between verses while “Blues On 9/11” is a solo instrumental which acts as a sort of intermission mid-point in the album, Bob playing some ethereal slide that certainly fits the title in its bleak tone.
The ‘second half’ starts with the hilarious “I’m So Damn Lazy”, the tuba’s melodious ‘parp’ underneath Bob’s lively guitar work as he recounts just how lazy he is – is this true or one of the ‘outrageous lies’ of the title. Equally funny is Bob’s account of the “High Maintenance Woman” who demands a high-end lifestyle that Bob is obliged to fund, so she “keeps me broke all the time”. The traditional “Stavin’ Chain” is played superbly in a fast-paced version, Bob showing us his skills on the guitar as he sounds like more than one picker.
In “Dead Man’s Curve” Bob narrates the story of a Cleveland landmark, assisted by bass and tuba, and closes the album with “Lucky So Far”, a song that celebrates a life well-lived and enjoyed. Bob’s lyrics are joyous and it is entirely fitting that around half way through the horns join in to give a New Orleans flavor that works well on this song.
This is a well conceived and played album that thoroughly deserves its nomination for Acoustic Blues Album in the 2019 Blues Blast Music Awards.