Review: David Francey, “The Broken Heart of Everything”

David Francey - The Broken Heart of Everything

Not long after we started writing this blog, I was skimming the results of the 2016 Canadian Folk Music Awards, acquainting myself with artists who we did not yet know.  One such artist was David Francey, the winner of two awards for his album “Empty Train,” which we promptly realized was absolutely as fabulous as advertised.  In the months since, we’ve hoped to have a chance to hear him live, but now comes news that we may not have that chance for a while – if at all.  Like so many other artists, Francey has fallen victim to years of disciplined and frequent touring and is currently dealing with severe vocal strain.

However, before embarking on a hopefully recuperative silence, Francey has left us with a new album, “The Broken Heart of Everything,” a spare and powerful set of reflections on the fleeting natures of love, life, mortality, and, yes, artistry.  Such a beautiful project only increases our hopes that he will in fact be able to tour in 2019 (as he himself is hoping).

The album opens with “Poorer Than,” a reflection on the brevity of life that itself surprises with its own shortness.  “Night and Morning” follows, capturing those odd sensations of transatlantic flight so perfectly (being caught between night and morning, not quite feeling anchored in one time over another), while “The Flower of Colonsay” and “Only Love” are unabashed love songs, all the more poignant for Francey’s frail (but still powerful) vocal delivery.

“Lonely Road” and “I Know It Won’t” provide intriguing, book-ended considerations of the same experience (the lengthy absences from home and loved ones of a touring artist) – on the one hand, the assurance of reunion with that loved one after the hard work of a tour comes to an end, and on the other, the frustration and uncertainty of that same touring life, unsure whether it actually makes a difference.  Like so much of Francey’s work, the songs speak far more universally than just to artists – the latter in particular raises questions that surely any working person must ask at some point: does all this time I spend, all this work I do, ultimately matter at all?

“Blue Sorrow and Then Some” provides a gorgeous tribute to the music of Hank Williams with its lilting waltz tempo, while “Where Harry Sat” is a salute of a different sort, memorializing a lost World War II pilot through the memories of his love.  “Come Sunday,” honoring a lost friend from Francey’s hockey league, depicts the sundering of that friendship through the lens of hockey and small-town connections – a theme that unfortunately became writ large recently with the tragedy in Humboldt.

Part of my delay in writing this review was an unwillingness to stop listening to this album – it’s a lovely work that merits frequent and attentive listening.  Together with Francey’s other work, it will tide us over until – God willing – he is once again able to step on stage and share his tremendous talent with fans in person.

(It should be added that David Francey is touring – as a visual artist.  He is taking his painting on the road for several stops; take a look at his gallery online and consider catching one of those stops if he comes to your area.)

~ L

Visit David Francey’s website.

Listen to “The Broken Heart of Everything” on Spotify.

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