There’s a good chance that you may have never heard of Neal Francis. The Chicago based musician is a piano prodigy who’s music is steeped in the seventies with touches of boogie woogie and that Laurel Canyon feel. On his new full length Changes he proves real fast that he not only gets how to play and write that kind of music, it’s deep within his soul as well.
It’s immediate here where you’re transported to Bourbon Street for the tones of artists like Dr John and Professor Longhair, where that boogie woogie piano is the emphasis. But as the album bops along, the lush instrumentation Francis employs shows he’s more than just an accomplished pianist. The funky soul of “She’s A Winner” has this tone like it could have come from forty years ago, “These Are The Days” feels like a song that Elton John wished he’d have penned and “Lauren” has all of the honky tonk piano of that era without really lifting from anyone. Francis makes no apologies for his influences and he shouldn’t because he could hang with them on songwriting and arrangement.
With the upbeat stride of “How Have I Lived” as an example, the way the organ dances between the bass and the drums is simply masterful. Francis drops his deep vocals in like a secret before horns come piping in in a way that would make Brian Wilson proud. On “Can’t Live Without Your Love” Francis has that sound that reminds you of Randy Newman and Levon Helm, yet it’s still all him. There’s a lot of graceful melodies here that you don’t get to hear anymore, an honesty that never gets represented in modern music and a deep desire that rarely gets utilized in songs. With Changes Neal Francis shows that he was probably born in the wrong era, but his music can exist in any time because it’s so solid.
Changes is available to purchase in all digital outlets, it can be streamed on all streaming sites, or it can be purchased on various formats directly from Colemine Records. Neal Francis is on tour beginning October 10 at Meow Wolf in Santa Fe, NM until October 27 at 191 Toole in Tucson, AZ. His complete tour schedule can be found here.
Image Credits: Photo by Olivia Quinn.