There is no doubt that the sound of Robert Francis is something familiar, yet it stands out from other American artists. That’s no surprise when his producer is Grammy Award-winning Dave Sardy, who brought musicians such as Johnny Cash, Oasis and Red Hot Chili Peppers to their world-wide success. While Sardy was the one that allowed the public to truly appreciate Robert’s music, his parents were also encouraging him from an early age. His father is a classical music producer and his mother encouraged him to take up guitar alongside the piano from the very young age of seven, so he too could play the “traditional ranchera songs she grew up singing with her sisters.” Now, while he performs songs of a more modern nature, he does keep a certain ‘homely’ feel in his music by introducing backing vocals from his sisters, Juliette and Carla.
The LA-born musician released his debut album, One By One, back in 2007 before being picked up by Atlantic Records. Robert says, “I guess I was just waiting to make music until I had something to say. From then on, I realized I could write songs that really meant something to me.” While he certainly lives up to this in his first album, his newest collection of music just oozes more stories, written with an edge but a relatively clean one at that. Last year, he returned with Before Nightfall and brought us a new selection of songs full of heartbreak, angst and a new story to tell.
The first song that caught my attention was Playground, perhaps for its odd collision of Robert’s country-singer voice with Hawaiian-sounding melodies on the guitar backing him. The beginning of single, Junebug, reminds me a little of the London-based band, White Lies, with its increasing tempo and Robert’s independent and urban voice. He exudes a classic sound in his music, but stills creates something new and combined and he shows us this in both Junebug and Playground. His vocal range is impressive and has an astouding intensity that still manages to sound so relaxing and natural. Climb A Mountain has lyrics you want to sing along with: “I can’t help you any more, I can’t help you climb a mountain,” but I cannot review Before Nightfall without mentioning the amazing track, I Like The Air. The simplicity of the drumming and guitar, alongside the echo of his voice is astounding.
I highly recommend to all that you find yourself a copy of Before Nightfall, sync your iPod and put on your headphones. This album lives up to its name and is perfect to listen to in the evening before nightfall, but it is also a demonstration to prove that age is no handicap in creating a flawless collection of songs.