September 21, 1994
Francis Dunnery, Fearless (Atlantic 1994) -- Scottish-born singer/songwriter/guitarist Francis Dunnery scores big on his debut solo album, Fearless, as the lush, textured production adds to the tension in the lyrics. But don't be put off by the occasional gimmickry. At its core, Fearless takes a microscopic look at the West Coast and exposes the perils of a California upbringing and lifestyle.
Now age 27, Dunnery originally worked with the London-based band It Bites. After several years with the band (and various world tours), Dunnery relocated to Los Angeles to pursue a solo career. Soon after signing with Atlantic Records, Dunnery accepted an invitation from Robert Plant to play guitar on Plant's Fate of Nations album and subsequent world tour. During this period, Dunnery also refined the 11 tracks on Fearless. The album was finally recorded in England, with Kevin Nixon producing the sessions and famed engineer/producer Bob Clearmountain doing the final mixes.
Fearless presents a foreigner's perspective of American life: Dunnery's been exposed to starlust, and knows where to find the bright lights. On the album's strongest cut, "Everyone's a Star," Dunnery sings "I've been to Hollywood/I've been across the water/I've talked to senators and to presidential daughters...Whatever you need, whoever you are/Everyone's a star." Similarly, in "American Life in the Summertime," Dunnery sings of "Johnny and Susie," two kids from small towns who get swallowed up in the "streets of L.A." while seeking fame and fortune.
Fearless takes a couple of listenings to fully absorb. The production is full, and employs a variety of processing techniques. Dunnery aims high, and succeeds in delivering a disc that exceeds the usual grunge angst. Give it a spin.
Sue Foley, Without a Warning (Antone's Records 1993) -- Canadian guitarist Sue Foley relocated to Austin, Texas several years ago to nurture her career, and has since developed into a blues player of renown. Without a Warning, her second release, is a showcase for her emerging talents as a songwriter as well as her sterling six-string technique.
The 25-year-old Foley has made quite a name for herself in Austin, and has toured with such headliners as Buddy Guy, George Thorogood, and Koko Taylor.
On Without a Warning, Sue daringly dips into the three-man band format; her band includes Jon Penner on bass and Freddie "Pharoah" Walden on drums, with Sue handling all guitar and vocal duties. The 13 tracks on the disc are primarily up-tempo blues numbers (though there is the obligatory slow blues cut, "Sad Sad City"). Sue wrote eight of the tracks on Without a Warning; the rest are covers, including two songs by Magic Sam ("Come Into My Arms" and "Give Me Time").
The story of how Sue got signed to Antone's is a classic. According to Clifford Antone (the head of the label), Sue and Clifford were talking on the phone when Sue said that one of her influences was James Cotton. Antone continues, "Well it just so happened that James Cotton was sitting next to me that very minute. I asked her if she wanted to talk to him and handed the phone to James. After they spoke, I told her she should come to Austin for a visit. She asked when, and I said 'How about tomorrow?' 'Tomorrow?' she said, 'I don't think I can be there that soon.' So I told her to think it over and call me whenever she was ready. Well, she called me the next day and said, 'I'm on my way.'"
Without a Warning is not just a showcase for Foley's blistering guitar playing (though her paisley pink Telecaster pyrotechnics are featured throughout the album); Sue's also got a rock vein in her (as displayed on songs like "Without a Warning") that is reminiscent of 70s Bonnie Raitt. Let's hope Sue isn't dragged through the same school of hard knocks as Bonnie, and can remain standing (and playing) tall.
God's Child, Everybody (Qwest/Warner Bros. 1994) -- God's Child, a quartet based in New York City, can be considered the poor boy's U2; though their songs don't reach the spiritual depths plumbed by U2, Everybody comes from the Zooropa school. This result is not surprising, considering that Everybody was mixed by Robbie Adams, who also worked on Zooropa.
The band members (Chris Seefried on vocals, guitars, and mellotron, Gary DeRosa on keyboards, Bip Ruda on bass, and Alex Alexander on drums, percussion, and loops), all hail from the burroughs of the Big Apple, and cite Patty Smyth and the Velvet Underground as their main inspirations. However, the best tracks on this album (such as "Wolf," which features spiky, over-amped guitars against a stressed-out string section, and "Stone Horses," which kicks off with a funky mellotron before sliding into a smooth, danceable beat) show the unmistakable influence of Ireland's finest export.
There's something earnest and likeable about this group; like Loud Sugar, the group is very comfortable in the studio, and has mastered the tape-loop & fuzzbox guitar sound. While you're waiting for the next blast from Bono & Co., check out this disc.
It's a Wonderful Life -- "I remember it was the night of the junior prom, and I was playing at a roadhouse, performing Neil Diamond songs. We were paid in amphetamines. It was the start of a great career, believe me." Paul Westerberg of the Replacements.
"Pop music is just long hours, hard work, and lots of drugs." Cass Elliott of the Mamas and the Papas.
-- Randy Krbechek
Copyright (c) Randy Krbechek
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