Featuring covers of Cameron McGill, Cory Chisel, and Miles Nielsen songs.
Francis Goes Solo is Daniel James McMahon and Darren Garvey. It was never planned that way but it accidentally happened one night in Rockford, IL— August 29th at Underground Squirrel Studio between 12am and 6am, to be exact. McMahon and Garvey had finished up day 2 of tracking for the forthcoming Micky Rosenquist & The Black Squirrels album project when ‘Francis‘ showed up. Most of the day’s performers had gone home, with another day of work ahead. McMahon and Garvey decided to keep working on another 12 pack of beer, which led to a 3 song E.P. they had magically recorded by dawn. Showing up at 10:30am to continue day 3 of production, they shared with me what they had done a few hours earlier.
Choosing 3 great songs by Midwestern songwriters that McMahon and Garvey have supported as recording & touring members over the past few years, Francis Goes Solo was born— with limitations, the rock n’ roll kind. Every song was recorded in the key of E at 165 bpm, with 1 take, guitars, vocals, percussion, bass. Overdubs allowed by each were minimum throughout— Darren’s tambourine, Dan’s harmonies. That’s about it. Francis Goes Solo covers, in order: Not On My Side by Cameron McGill & What Army, originally released on the beautiful 2009 release, Warm Songs for Cold Shoulders; Tennessee by Cory Chisel & The Wandering Sons, off of 2009’s Death Won’t Send a Letter; and Dear Kentucky (You’re Killing Me) by Miles Nielsen from 2011’s Presents The Rusted Hearts.
McMahon leads the vocals on all except for Not On My Side, providing harmonies to Garvey’s lead. All three originals by each songwriter are turned inside out; what are fragile, soft, contemplative pop-folk performances by the composers become trash-glam indie rock anthems, amps turned to 10, with feedback and harmonies bristling together with monster drum-fills and cymbal crashes. Never lost in the sonic rash are each song’s lyrics and perfect pop melodies. An honor to the songs’ craftsmen, while also serving up more reasons why McMahon and Garvey are in high demand by many bands to provide their services on the road, and in the studio.
Bob Dylan once proclaimed that he sought ‘that wild mercury sound,’ or lighting in a bottle, during the recordings of Blonde on Blonde, and I’ve searched for this mercurial sound my entire life from recordings I stumble upon- and here it is, in all of it’s E chord glory. Daniel McMahon and Darren Garvey found it here, channeled through their peers’ songs, as Francis Goes Solo.
Turn this fucker up loud, fist the air or play the air drums, and sing along— then, bow to Francis Goes Solo like you just don’t care.
AW | Andy Whorehall