Robert Francis was just 19 years old when he kickstarted his career with 2007’s One By One, an album whose lushly-layered folk songs — all of them written, produced, and performed by the L.A. native, who played nearly every instrument himself — pointed to a songwriter whose evocative songwriting belied his young age. More than a dozen years later, Francis remains every bit the roots-music mainstay that his debut promised. He’s a prolific performer. An international chart-topper. A road warrior who writes songs inspired not only by his own life, but also the lives of those he’s encountered along the way.
It was during a cross-country drive from Nashville to Los Angeles that Francis began crafting the rock & roll anthems that fill Vol. 1, the newest release from Robert Francis + The End Times via Aeronaut Records. He’d been living in Tennessee for months, having left California after the death of his father, classical music producer Robert Commagère. Nashville felt like a new world, different in so many ways from his native Southern California, and Francis put that new inspiration to good use, recording the Americana-influenced album Amaretto during a series of raw, analog tracking sessions in his basement. Trailblazers like Ry Cooder, Marty Stuart, and Terry Evans lent their talents to Amaretto, resulting in an album whose inspired, off-the-cuff performances recalled works like Bob Dylan’s New Morning. Still, Francis found himself stonewalled by music industry executives who considered the record too difficult to market, and Amaretto wound up sitting on the shelf for two years.
Robert Francis + The End Times’ Vol. 1 is an album built for highway driving. It’s a soundtrack for the road, filled with songs that evoke the rush of open windows and the glow of sun beaming through the windshield. Perhaps most importantly, it’s a reminder that Francis — who, while still in his early 30s, has already released a career’s worth of material — remains in discovery mode, happy to revisit and reinvent the sounds that once blasted from the dashboard radios of his youth. A prolific writer, he’s got more volumes of music in store… but Vol. 1 is still a destination worth stopping for.
Today Glide is excited to premiere the music video for “Boy Like That,” one of the standout tracks on the new album. Riding a cool, unhurried groove, Francis writes the lyrics from the perspective of an ex-girlfriend. With its infectious synth line, mellow guitar lines, and soulful, funky percussion and background vocals, the song carries a melancholy, nostalgia-driven rock and roll sound. Compared to the roots and Americana sounds Francis is often known for, this song marks a departure with its combination of indie rock and throwback soul.
Photo credit: Cori Elliott