It’s strange to say a 32-year-old returned to form, but that’s exactly what Robert Francis just did. His first three albums, One by One, Before Nightfall, and Strangers in the First Place, were brilliant beyond Francis’ years. Each one showed a unique and progressing voice. The next three records, Heaven, Fire Engine Red, and Indian Summer all have great songs, but not the consistent growth of his first three.
In comes Amaretto, an Americana masterpiece written in the wake of Robert Francis’ father’s death. Francis has channeled the emotion of his father’s death into a consistent set of heart-wrenching songs. Some are catchy and some are growers.
On first spin, the opening track “Other Side of Heaven” has all the best that Nashville has to offer. Mary Stuart’s mandolin playing gives the tune a ring and adds that extra essence. The song sounds loose and catchy and sets the tone of country-rock behind Francis’ soaring vocals. It’s a tune that doesn’t waste any time in pulling the reader in with its hooky chorus.
“How Long Has It Been” and “Mendocino” are down-tempo acoustic numbers with a story to tell. They more directly address Robert Francis’ time in morning. “How Long Has It Been” explores a variety of memories of Robert Francis’ time with his father. “Mendocino” is about returning to the place where you grew. With a beautiful fingerpicked backing track, “Mendocino” has a particularly beautiful vocal performance.
Other standout tracks “The Country Bar” and “Bad Evidence” are more uptempo with an American spin. Robert Francis’ Amaretto is a brilliant record that one can hope will be the breakthrough he deserves.
About the author: Jeff is a teacher in the Boston area. When not buried correcting papers, Jeff can be found plucking various stringed instruments and listening to all types of americana music.