Ron Franklin: “Ron Franklin”
Stripped-down Americana folk-rock singer/ songwriter stuff, with a bit more electric guitar than you might expect. Strong Dylan influences, especially late-60s vintage. Makes me want to light one up on the back porch while I soak up the tunes and the late afternoon sun.
Lou Bond – “Lou Bond”
I love this record now, but when I was young, I would have used it for second base. The lush orchestral string arrangements (and do I hear a flugelhorn in there somewhere?) threaten, at one point or another, to swamp each of the album’s six songs, and Bond’s guitar style of purposefully plucking his way through each chord (instead of giving it a good strum once in a while) gives several tracks an almost antagonistically unhurried feeling. But the vocals, though—Bond’s voice is so smooth, he can almost lull you to sleep with lyrics that, in parts, take an unflinching look at the social turmoil of the early 1970s. Without that voice, the whole thing would fall apart. But thankfully it doesn’t, and we’re left with a mellow, urban album that is one of the most soulful and heartfelt records I’ve ever heard.
Rodriguez – “Coming From Reality”
An inexplicably-forgotten singer-songwriter gem from the early 1970s. Rodriguez was once hailed as the Latin Bob Dylan, and while that’s a fair assessment of his first album, it misses the mark here: perhaps Nilsson, Jim Croce, Loudon Wainwright and Gordon Lightfoot would be more appropriate comparisons. Some cuts swagger while others are more subdued, relying on a shimmery string section for a bit of texture. But what all ten songs have in common is a melancholy undercurrent keeping them afloat.