Where Changes Have Led Neal Francis

Liberated from a self-destructive past and born anew in sobriety, Neal Francis has captured an inspired collection of songs steeped in New Orleans rhythms, Chicago blues, and early 70s rock n’ roll. His music evokes a bygone era of R&B’s heyday while simultaneously forging a new path on the musical landscape. Ohio-based Karma Chief Records (a subsidiary of rising soul label Colemine Records) released a full LP Changes on September 20, 2019. There is a deep connection between Neal’s childhood, his obsession with boogie woogie piano, his father’s gift of a dusty Dr. John LP, and the songs he’s created. The result is an astonishing collection of material without parallel in the contemporary funk and soul scene. When you listen, you’ll hear AND feel it. While he pays tribute to the masters, he has his own story to tell. The piano prodigy found himself touring Europe by the age of 18 with Muddy Waters’ son and backing up other prominent blues artists coast-to-coast. In 2012, Francis joined popular instrumental funk band The Heard. With Francis at the creative helm, The Heard transformed into a national act, touring with boogaloo progenitors The New Mastersounds and chart toppers The Revivalists and appearing at Jazz Fest and Bear Creek. As The Heard’s star rose, however, Francis sunk deeper into addiction. Once a promising sideman, by 2015 he had been fired from his band, evicted from his apartment, and was perilously close to self-destruction. The journey from a hospital bed to launching his solo career was neither predictable nor straightforward. There were musical fits and starts, relapses, and broken relationships. Yet the overwhelming passion driving Neal in this second act has been an abundance of creative energy. Determined to realize the songs swirling in his head, he assembled a crack team of musicians, calling on bassist Mike Starr (The Heard) and drummer PJ Howard (The Revivalists, The Heard). He linked up with producer and analog-obsessive Sergio Rios (Orgone, Cee Lo Green, Alicia Keys) and self-funded a trip to Killion Sound in Los Angeles to record the initial batch of material. Neal finished recording basic tracks for Changes in Los Angeles in February of 2018 and spent the following months doing overdubs in Chicago with engineer Mike Novak (who also recorded demos for the project). Soon after he began his touring career.

I had a chance to re-connect with friend of the proGram Neal Francis ahead of the January 30th show at the High Noon Saloon along with those colorful groovemasters, Turkuaz. Neal and I talk about all that has been happening since last we spoke on the record. He has been touring heavy on the back of the Changes release, and it’s some of the artists he is pairing up with that shows his musics flexibility, relatability and the handshake it solidifies with gratitude. We get into a new track that’s out today, what the future looks like with other “new to you” music and fellow artists on the mighty Colemine Records. I am thinking you must be ready to get yourself a taste of some Midwest soul, so check out what Neal is up to in a area near you.

Photo by Liina Raud

Tubular Belled

The extra portion of this week’s proGram went around the block and down the slide…safe:

Feelin’ Good (Joe Claussell Remix)- Nina Simone
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Bde Maka Ska- Atmosphere
Push Play- Atmosphere

Sabotage- Beastie Boys (SNL 11/21/98)
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Tuntkah ‘The Nomad King’-MERIDIAN 71
Casamance- MERIDIAN 71

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Lonely Man- Freddie McKay
Lots Of Signs- Tenor Saw
Fisherman- The Congos
Don’t Trouble (Trouble version)- Aggrovators

When The Ink Is Dry

The next portion of the proGram moved the tape in all the right directions:

Meat Man- Lee Shot Williams
Y’all Know How to Party- Barbara Carr
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Cross The Rope Bridge- The Sorcerers
Lucidity (Tnertle Remix)- Atomga
Pass It On- Omar Ft. Terri Walker
Long Time Coming- Omar

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Glitches (The Skin You’re In)- Amel Larrieux + The Roots
They Don’t Want- Electric Wire Hustle
Like Water- Ladi6
Pass It On- Funkommunity
Everybody Pass Me By- Pepe Deluxé
~~~
Spicy Peppercorn- Blockhead
***pre-recorded conversation with Blockhead***
Bubble Bath Bustdown- Blockhead
Life Support- Blockhead

Music For Everything

The second piece to this week’s musical puzzle made it obvious that many have their own ways to make sure that they Get SUM:

Shame On You- Val Starr & The Blues Rocket
Get Out Of Your Life- Pierce Dipner and the Shades of Blue
Big Oak Tree- Georgia Randall

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Don’t Let Me Die In America- of Montreal
20th Century Schizofriendic Revengoid Man- of Montreal

Mellow Yellow- Mary Chapin Carpenter
Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood- Eric Burdon with Jenny Lewis
Why Can’t We Be Friends- Geggy Tah
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Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)- David Bowie (Live SNL 2/8/97)
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Peekaboo- Robert Randolph & The Family Band Ft. Luther Dickinson (Live Bonaroo 2002)
Sugartown- North Mississippi Allstars (Live Bonaroo 2002)
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That’s All Right, Mama- Jerry Garcia & Merl Saunders (Live 12 1/23/1973 The Boarding House, S.F.)
Memphis- Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio (Live KEXP Studio)

The Ice Breaking

The first portion of this week’s proGram had to start somewhere and this was the best way for today to get things frozen:

Got Dressed Up to Be Let Down- Jack Grelle
I Know Everything- The Hooten Hallers
Far Better Friend Than Lover- Steven Keene
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Cut And Run- Familiar Looking Strangers (Live WMSE Studio)
Miss Watson- Semi Twang (Live WMSE Studio)
American- Bodeans (Live WMSE Studio)
~
No More- Neil Young (Live SNL 9/30/89)
Me And Paul- Willie Nelson (live)
Long Haired Country Boy- From Good Homes
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The Truth- Steve Earle
Rains On Me- Tom Waits
Poor Girl- Supersuckers Ft. Eddie Vedder
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Living In A Dream- Chris Shutters Ft. Jimmy Burns
House Of The Rising Sun- Tomislav Goluban
Come On In- Thorbjørn Risager & The Black Tornado

In The Bubble Bath With Blockhead

The internationally renowned NYC producer, Tony Simon, who goes by the moniker Blockhead has released ten albums over the past fifteen years, including four acclaimed records for Ninja Tune and numerous production jobs including notable works with Aesop Rock. He is regarded as one of the modern masters of instrumental hip-hop, and the forthcoming new album, ‘Bubble Bath’ sees him return to record-label-released music with the bold and exciting roster at Future Archive Recordings (co-founded by artists Arms and Sleepers, Sun Glitters, Little People and CNJR). ‘Bubble Bath’ is a record born out of meditative expression and ongoing personal creative challenge, key for a producer of BLOCKHEAD’s experience. Carried forward are the incredible hook and sample placement skills of classic works such as ‘Uncle Tony’s Coloring Book’ and ‘Music By Cavelight’, but what has emerged is an overwhelming sense of natural musicality and sophistication.

I had the chance to catch up with Blockhead ahead of the event in Madison on January 22nd at the High Noon Saloon. Tony will be here with fellow Future Archive Recording label mates Arms and Sleepers and Il:Lo. We get into the upcoming event and find out they way he executes his nightly plan. We dive into the way the new album went down and the moods that went into it’s creation. We talk about then versus now of beat selection, creation and how he feels about choosing the right sound. Tony even picks a tune off the new release to build a set around…..listen in to find out which way that set-list bends.

The Fade

The final portion of the proGram went zooming downhill, past the senses and directly into hearts, small and large:

Sola Rosa Turn Around- Sola Rosa Ft. Iva Lamkum
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Medicine- Bag Raiders
Gasoline- Dreaming Of Ghosts Ft. Robot Koch & Fiora
Lunarum- Dreaming Of Ghosts

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Medium- Dillon Vado’s Quintet
Never Catch Up- Dillon Vado’s Quintet
Laughing Birds- Toh-Kichi
Climber’s High- Toh-Kichi

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Pebbles In The Pocket- John Bailey

Follow You Arrow

The third portion of this week’s proGram followed the lead that was set earlier and then went it’s own way….hey hey:

Never No More- Frank Bey
Go Crazy- G Love & Special Sauce Ft. Keb Mo

Louis Louis- The Topics
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Concussion- Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio (live KEXP)
***pre-recorded conversation with Delvon Lamarr***
Tacoma Black Party- Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio (live KEXP)
Fo’ Sho’- Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio #
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End Credit- The Sorcerers Ft. Chip Wickham
The People Of The Forest- The Sorcerers
Start Your Path (inst)- Captain Supernova
Voyage to Nowhere (inst)- Captain Supernova (feat. Mark de Clive-Lowe & Josh Johnson)

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Thank You (Falettin Me Be Mice Elf Again)- Barry White
Soul Makossa- Cecil Moses & The SGs
Upside Down- The Daktaris
Daktari Walk- The Daktaris
Hot Pants Road- Ravi Harris and the Prophets

# World Premier

Photo By Nick Berard

Top Of The Planet To You

The second portion of the proGram took a journey around the perimeter and brought back the sounds from the top:

Hit Me Up- The Delphines (live WMSE Studio)
Wild Desire- King Tuff (live WMSE Studio)
Blind Truth- Mutts (live WMSE Studio)
~
Donny’s Trip- Nolan Potter’s Nightmare Band
Singing A Single Song Of Satan- Nolan Potter’s Nightmare Band

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Rodeo Clowns- Jack Johnson Ft. DJ Logic (live Bonaroo 2002)
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Tennessee Jed- Phil Lesh & Friends Ft. Bob Weir (live Bonaroo 2002)
I Know It’s A Sin- Jerry Garcia & Merl Saunders (Live, 12 1/23/1973 The Boarding House, S.F.)
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Good Gone Bad- Chris Shutters W/Jimmy Burns
Country Bag- Tomislav Goluban
Last Train- Thorbjørn Risager & The Black Tornado

~
Peace In Pieces- Betty Fox Band
Sactown Heat- Val Starr & The Blues Rocket
Drive In Fantasy- Georgia Randall

Hay Now There

The first portion of this week’s proGram just rolled on up for a good hang:

Long Goodbye- King Cardinal
~
Let Love Reign- Los Lobos
Honey Bee- Tom Petty (live on SNL)
Talkin’ Bout a Revolution- Living Colour (live)
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Country Ghetto- JJ Grey (live WTTS Studio)
She’s Just Killing Me- ZZ Top
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Dirty Water- The Inmates
Time Has Come Today- Steve Earle & Sheryl Crow
Carry On- Timothy B. Schmit
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Use Me- Robin Danar Ft. Pete Yorn & Kinky
The Brooklynites- Soul Coughing
Egg Cream- Lou Reed
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Weed (To The Rescue)- Vic Chesnutt
One Toke Over The Line- The Rainmakers Ft. Brewer & Shipley

Soul Feeling The Music Of the Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio

Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio was formed in the spring of 2015 by Amy Novo, Delvon Lamarr’s wife and band manager. She told her husband she would take over his music career and all he had to do was find the musicians, create and play music. They originally started with different guitarist and drummer. Within a year they brought on infamous Jimmy James. Immediately the chemistry between the three of them was undeniable. With Delvon’s soulful organ sound, and Jimmy’s explosive guitar sound and the former drummer’s perfect pocket drumming, they had the perfect blend of Soul, Jazz, Rhythm & Blues and Rock & Roll. They started with a weekly residency at The Royal Room in Seattle for the first year then self-released their first album, playing short tours from Idaho, Spokane, Seattle, Bellingham, Olympia, Portland, Reno, California, and tour in Europe. Shortly after signing with Colemine Records they re-released their album on a 45, LP, cassette, CD and digitally. The band has since gone from a local Seattle-based band to a national and international household name, traveling all over the United States and around the world. The love, passion and devotion Amy Novo, Colemine Records & The Kurland Agency has for their music creates the perfect power team. Now, with Michael Duffy as their drummer, Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio is ready to take their performance to new regions of the world, bringing their unique sound to fans across the globe.

I had the chance to catch up with Delvon ahead of the January 18th event at The Venue On Winnebago Street. We got into the scene a live event from the trio creates, from the dancing feet to the opening minds. We talk about the relationship they have with the team at Colemine Records, as well as the other label mates and how this music travels when it heads to Europe. Delvon creates a set-list of sounds for us if I were to give him control of the board, and let me tell you, the listeners might let me take a little extra time off so they can get more of his selections. He built his set off of a soon to be released track from the Trio, that I get to world premier this week on the show. (Fo’ Sho’)