Gar Francis is a Garage rock/Americana/Blues solo artist hailing from Belvidere, New Jersey with a long list of accolades and credits to his name. He has received awards from The John Lennon Song Contest, the Unisong Music Awards, and an honourable mention in the Billboard Song Contest. He’s been writing, recording and playing live for decades, has written songs for the Doughboys, and Jeanne Lozier, as well as writing a tribute for the USA Armed Forces and performing for them. Gar is a busy man, but my task today is to dig into his brand new EP “Shine On”, which comes to us courtesy of Bongo Boy Records.[youtube bcedJJrc3Q8 nolink]
It’s 5 seconds in and I have to pause to absorb this. Gar Francis knows how to rock, and he’s certainly not content to phone in this performance, preferring rather to set the tone with stomps, claps, distorted guitars and a gravelly, Tom Waits-type lead vocal that carries with it a true rock n’ roll spirit. The energy has elements of punk rock and much of the vocals remind me of Iggy Pop, which is a wonderful thing. Authentic, well-written, and forceful. The production is top notch and the bass, guitars and drums are all interesting; never missing a cue. The bellowing chorus refrain of “Shine on” sounds like both a rebellion and a celebration of life and perseverance. Shine on, indeed.
“Back in 1985” introduces us to more of a Rolling Stones/Americana influence, and no speed has been lost on our trek through this EP. The celebratory, open-hearted aspects of Bruce Springstein’s work are evident in the sound here as well. Gar Francis’s voice is experienced and unpredictable. He sounds vital and thoroughly energized as he reminisces about 1985. This is a perfect example of remembering the good times without dwelling; still seizing the moment, ready to have more fun.
“Blue Cadillac” is immediately cooler than cool; ice cold, in case you didn’t guess. Rarely do you hear a classic sound as fully pepped up as this. If there ever was highway music, music to turn up loud and get out of town, these twanging guitars and peppy beat fit the bill. The destination would have to be some dirty, southern rock bar with just a hint of danger. The kind of place where anything could happen. Gar Francis croons “Rock with me, baby, in my blue Cadillac” and shows the kind of swagger most would shy away from.
“Tragedy” brings a simple two-chord progression with a great lead guitar line, the kind that Tom Petty would take a liking to. The happy-go-lucky feel of the music itself brings an intriguing dash of irony to the song, which is about loss and hardship. And alas, this makes “Tragedy” an intriguing piece, as Gar is taking the zen observer’s approach, or at least the wise man’s perspective that “it happens to all of us”. There’s no reason to be afraid because we are all in this together. A bona fide radio hit that I’d like to see spread for Mr. Francis.
Gar Francis closes this 5-track EP with “I’m Still Alive”, and the energy hasn’t let up. With an explosive Stooges-type guitar bringing the bluesy punk, Gar screeches “I remember different times when youth could stop a war. We were young but we were right. No one gives a damn no more.”
Gar Francis’s EP “Shine On” is recommended listening for any rock n’ roll fans. It’s inspiring to hear this type of output coming from anyone; Mr. Francis’s guttural Iggy Pop-like delivery and genuine fire eclipses most music I’ve heard from artists who are probably half his age. This really is a fantastic EP and I look forward to the next full length for another rock fix.
Independent Music Promotions – firstname.lastname@example.org[Rating: 5/5]