Blue Chihuahua Records
CD: 14 Songs; 52:56 Minutes
Styles: Ensemble Blues, Contemporary Electric Blues Rock
What do the following subjects all have in common: Kissimmee, alligators, oranges, rain, “snowbirds,” and Walt Disney World? If vacationers, for example, are keen on encountering these things, they’re also keen on Goin’ Down to Florida. The title of the sixth CD by Franc Robert and the Boxcar Tourists is absolutely spot-on, since they’re based in Tampa Bay. They easily capture the fancy-free spirit of the Sunshine State, while remaining true to their darker roots in the blues. Even though Franc talk-sings through the whole album, with vocals ranging from conversational asides and complaints to near-shouts, no one will care if they’re “all in” for the instrumentation. On fourteen original tracks, Robert gives a snazzy sales pitch for FUN.
Backing Franc up as he performs on guitars and lead vocals are the Boxcar Tourists: Dave Simmons on percussion/background vocals, Sam Mudd on bass/supporting vocals, and Joe Sadowski on harmonica/backing vocals. They realize that there are two keys to being an ensemble: 1) Each member must be excellent on his/her instrument of choice, but also 2) Each member must not overshadow the others. Theirs is a team effort. Like all good sports teams, these three Boxcar Tourists know when to “throw” their all into a solo and when it’s time to “pass” their turn on to Robert for another lyrical verse.
According to the “Bio” section of Franc’s website, “I just became obsessive about playing guitar…Eventually, my mother stopped calling it noise and started calling it music… one of the better days of my life!” He has since performed for over three decades, with 2012’s Mulligan Stew bringing in extensive national airplay and rave reviews from critics.
The following three songs are fresh compositions by Franc Robert, and will catch the attention of anyone who’s looking to boogie down – especially on outdoor-festival nights:
Track 01: “Goin’ Down to Florida” – With a bouncy beat and a refrain that only the most inebriated partygoers will miss, the title track is a surefire winner. “Well, I’m going to pack my suitcase and catch a southbound train. Yeah, I’m going down to Florida, and I ain’t going back again!” Here’s a hint for singing along: The state’s name is nearly pronounced “Flawduh”.
Track 03: “Voodoo Stomp” – Florida’s not the only place with vibrant blues, as spicy track three proves. Reminiscent of Too Slim and the Taildraggers’ tunes, it features Franc’s growling, high-volume electric guitar, howling harmonica courtesy of Joe Sadowski, and persistent cowbell by percussionist Dave Simmons.
Track 08: “Cheap Cadillac” – Listen closely to this song’s intro and harp refrain: They sound like the formerly-audible signal of an old car’s blinker that the driver forgot to turn off. Such a blinker might be found on the car in the title, purchased as a lure for our narrator’s former lover. How’s it working out? It isn’t: “The brakes started failing, and I bailed out that door.”
Goin’ Down to Florida isn’t perfect on vocal technique, but it is perfect for summer parties!