Sunday, April 28, 2013

Drive Any Direction - Stewart Francke DVD Session, April 26, 2013

This past Friday evening at a recording studio in Birmingham, about 50 people gathered to witness Stewart Francke and his band record a DVD. The invitees included those who had contributed to a kickstarter campaign for Stewart's excellent new CD, Love Implied. The session, however, wasn't simply a rehash of the album tracks, but a bit of a career retrospective. Spanning two full sets at 23 songs, it included several that I had never seen him play before; songs that hopefully will have some listeners checking out some of his earlier work.

While the main focus of the set was on tracks from Stewart's last 3 albums (What We Talk Of...When We Talk, Heartless World, and Love Implied), a key highlight was a rare performance of a composition that predated those albums: Letter From 10 Green, written as a letter to his children when Stewart was a patient at Karmanos Cancer Center, at a time when he didn't know if he would live to return home. It is difficult and personal; Stewart performed it accompanied only by Chris Plansker on piano.

Stewart performed only a single take of each song. Towards the end of the session, he introduced Drive North, calling it his "reluctant anthem." I may have been the first -- or at least one of the first -- to call for this, when I declared "it should be a state song" in my initial write-up of Love Implied. I hold to that; I'd love to see Pure Michigan commercials with the song, and I'd love to see Stew raking in healthy royalties, too. So I say to him, embrace it! During the performance on Friday, the last time through the chorus Stew put the sycamore trees in the East (the song's lyrics associate the sycamore trees with the South). I figured he might want a re-do, but instead, he ad-libbed -- and I hope it's on the DVD -- an extra line: "drive any direction," and it seemed to fit. We drive north.

After the session, Aaron had a chance to talk to Stewart, as well as to bass player Craig Scott and guitarist Pete Peltier. Now that Aaron is learning guitar and bass, the session was an opportunity for him to see and study how professionals do it. I think his first question to Stewart was, "Why Epiphone and not Gibson?" I was glad to see he'd been paying attention.

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