Review: Frankie Bourne, Californicana

Frankie Bourne, Californicana

16 Feb, 2015 Alex Henderson

 

frankiebourne

Some roots rockers get most of their creative inspiration from one particular era of music.  Other roots rockers, however, draw on different musical eras for creative inspiration.  And Californicana underscores the fact that Frankie Bourne (frankiebourne.com) is an appealing example of the latter.  The Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter is 26 years old, which means he was born in the late 1980s and is firmly in the Millennial/Generation Y demographic.  Yet on his debut album, Californicana, Bourne is directly or indirectly influenced by artists who emerged in the 1970s (the Eagles, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, the Doobie Brothers) as well as adult alternative, roots rock and Americana artists who were popular during the 1990s (including the Gin Blossoms, Counting Crows, the Dave Matthews Band and the Goo Goo Dolls).  And on memorable tracks such as “The Whistle,” “Mrs. Redundancy,” “Oh Well, We’ll See,” “Fully Grown” and “Man in Days,” it is evident that Bourne (who wrote all 13 of the songs on this CD) likes his roots rock, Americana and alternative rock on the melodic, tuneful side.  Bourne definitely has a way with a hook, and his infectious songs are both easy to absorb and easy to like.

Singer/songwriters who operate in the roots rock/Americana realm often get a great deal of creative inspiration from the American heartland.  John Mellencamp, for example, wore his Midwestern heritage like a badge of honor on so many of his classic 1970s and 1980s recordings.  Instead of trying to hide his Indiana background, Mellencamp happily celebrated it on gems like “Jack and Diane” in 1982 and “Pink Houses” in 1983.  And Bourne does, to be sure, reference Memphis and other parts of the Heartland on this album.  But if there is any part of the United States that does the most to give Bourne creative inspiration, it is California without a doubt.  Bourne is originally from Northern California and now lives in the southern part of the state, and California imagery is plentiful in Bourne’s lyrics.  Bourne, for example, brings Golden State imagery to life on “California Man” (not to be confused with the Cheap Trick song from the late 1970s) and “Common Ground” as well as “Fog City Blues” and other tracks.  When Californicana is playing, one can easily picture Bourne walking around Hollywood Boulevard, the Sunset Strip or Venice Beach with his guitar.  And even though he doesn’t perform the Eagles’ “Hotel California” on this album, that song would have fit right in had Bourne opted to record it.

Bourne can be enjoyably bluesy at times.  “Darlin’, Don’t,” “Home Country Blues,” “Wanderlust Blues” and “Fog City Blues” are not blues in the strict sense: none of them actually adhere to the traditional 12-bar blues structure, but they certainly have the feeling and emotion of the blues.  There is no overlooking the amount of blues feeling that Bourne displays on those selections.  His appreciation of the blues comes through loud and clear.

The combination of instruments that Bourne favors on Calfiornicana does a lot to help him achieve and maintain a rootsy type of atmosphere.  Bourne, who plays guitar and harmonica in addition to singing, oversees a skillful group of musicians who play slide guitar (Johnny Hawthorn), organ and piano (Jordan Summers) and dobro (Manny Alvarez).  A saxophonist, Jeremy Trezona, joins Bourne on “Mrs. Redundancy” (which is the last track on the CD).  And the production also adds to the rootsy vibe.  Bourne produced this self-released album with Marc Danzeisen, and together, the two of them make Calfiornicana sound well-produced but never glossy or overproduced.  Bourne is going for earthiness rather than slickness, and the musicianship and production help him to display that organic type of sound.

Californicana is a consistently promising debut from Bourne.

Review by Alex Henderson
4 stars out of 5