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Franc Robert – 49 x 61

Self Release 2010

11 tracks, 42.52 minutes.

Franc Robert is the lead guitarist for Tampa Bay area band Back Alley Blues Band and here steps out for his first release as leader. This is a mainly electric CD but unfortunately the CD does not list any musicians by name; bass, drums and keyboards are present on most tracks. A significant problem with the CD is the quality of the recording or mastering: the sound is indistinct and needed a considerable hike in volume to be heard. This may be a problem with the advance copy I had, but it made for a less comfortable listening experience than normal, particularly when I put the new Kenny Wayne Shepherd CD into the player afterwards without altering the volume and was nearly deafened!

All bar one track are credited as originals, the exception being a very strange version of “House Of The Rising Sun” which features a not unattractive Spanish guitar figure set against a very dull version of the familiar tune which lacks either the drama of the classic Animals version or the pathos that could be wrung from the tragic story. Mind you, “Cross Roads Stomp” is so close a relation to the Robert Johnson classic that you can hear RJ spinning in his grave! As an upbeat, slide driven version of “Crossroads” this is OK, but no better than one might hear in many bars.

The best tracks for me were the more restrained “Troubles Be On My Mind”, an instrumental not far away from “It Hurts Me Too”, well played on guitar and “The Boxcar Tourist”, the only track to feature National Steel guitar which made a pleasant change to the more electric tracks. Of the straight electric songs I liked “Moving To Splitsville” which rocks along well with quite an interesting lyric about the demise of a relationship.

The title track finds us in SRV territory and works quite well, certainly more enjoyable than the aforementioned “Rising Sun” and opener “Goin’ Down South” which I found monotonous. “Queen Of Hearts” features a Bo Diddley style riff on guitar and organ while final track “Back Alley Blues” is another instrumental with quite interesting playing between two guitars – again, a pity not to know who the second player is (or are they both Franc?).

Overall I found this a disappointing CD with poor sound and insufficient originality to get its head above the many CDs that are released in the blues field.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He recently attended the Blues Blast Awards in Chicago and had a great time! Back in the USA for the January 2011 Blues Cruise!

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