Philadelphia-bred singer-songwriter John Francis has long been an advocate for social justice. Themes of disenfranchisement cropped up across his 2010 album Better Angels, from racial segregation to class stratification (get a refresher course in his Key Studio Session here). More recently, he threw the City of Love Festival to support local hunger charities and launched a PledgeMusic campaign, which seeks to both fund his next album and support the international poverty organization One. So when Francis chooses to cover a Bruce Springsteen song for Veteran’s Day, you know there’s more to it than just playing an iconic song by an iconic artist.
“Born in the U.S.A.” is one of the most misinterpreted songs in rock history; lyrically, the song tells a harrowing tale of the troubles faced by a Vietnam vet upon returning home, but it’s commonly used as a yay-America anthem at sporting events, 4th of July celebrations and even political campaigns. Which completely misses the point, and Springsteen’s original demo (recorded in the style of Nebraska and available on the Tracks box set) makes it much more evident. Francis’ own version takes a similar approach with strings and light acoustic instrumentation.
“I’m releasing the song today, Veteran’s Day, and working with veteran’s agencies locally and nationally to get the song out there,” Francis said via email. “It’s an attempt to bring exposure and shed light on the dire plight of many of our returning veteran’s, and our society’s pervasive blindness toward the most marginalized and vulnerable individuals.”
The songs was recorded in Creative Workshop Studio in Nashville and produced by Ken Coomer (original Wilco drummer, Uncle Tupelo), with Kenny Vaughan on guitar (Lucinda Williams, Ray Lamontagne) and Dave Roe on bass (Johnny Cash, John Mellencamp). Listen to the track below.
Divers open for Auctioneer at Kung Fu Necktie tonight. The brainchild of local musicians Emily Ann Zeitlyn and Ross Bellenoit, Divers are a new quartet filled out by Tom Bendel (Buried Beds) and Todd Erk (The Weeds). Alternating between wailing, dynamic flourishes and upbeat rock-outs, the Philly band’s still-growing discography of three tracks is an enticing preview of what’s to come. Tickets and information for tonight’s 21+ show with Auctioneer and Anna Vogelzang can be found at the WXPN Concert Calendar. Stream “Wild Things” below and right-click here to download it for free.
Philly singer-songwriter John Francis appeared on The Leicht Lunch on WXPN last week to play some music and chat with host Helen Leicht about The City Of Love Festival, the benefit concert he’s staging at Underground Arts this weekend. With a massive 13-band bill ranging from rapper Kuf Knotz to singer-songwriter Kwesi Kankam and rock foursome The Districts, the show will raise money for Broad Street Ministry and its hospitality initiative to help Philadelphia’s homeless. Below, download Francis’ on-air performance of his song “Just a Moment Ago,” and hear his entire interview with Helen Leicht. For more invormation about the festival, visit WXPN’s concert calendar.
One of the many wonderful things about the Philadelphia music community is its desire to rally around causes and make a difference in the city. As cliched as that sounds, its true – the latest example being hometown musician John Francis‘ new City of Love Festival, benefiting Broad Street Ministry and their “Breaking Bread” hospitality initiative. Amidst debate over whether or not outdoor meal services for the homeless should be allowed in Philadelphia, the Broad Street Ministry has created its own safe haven for the city’s homeless men and women where they can receive a hot meal and a variety of services (including medical attention, art therapy and assistance for veterans) every Thursday afternoon. Continue reading →
WXPN’s Twelve Days of Local Christmas continues today with the song “Don’t Tell Me It’s Christmas” by singer-songwriter John Francis. John has a show with Ben Arnold on New Year’s Eve at Steel City Coffee House in Phoenixville. Francis has also organized the City Of Love Fest on January 12th at Underground Arts to raise funds for the Broad Street Ministry’s hospitality initiative and he hosts the “Magic Hour” singer-songwriter night at Fergie’s Pub every Tuesday evening. The 12 Days of Local Christmas compilation is curated by XPN mid-day host Helen Leicht and the songs will be played daily during My Morning Download on the Morning Show with Michaela Majoun and on Helen’s local pick of the day. You can download the entire Twelve Days of Local Christmas compilation here.
Support for My Morning Download, from Flying Fish Brewing Company
Though he migrated to Nashville to record some records, John Francis got his start in the musical halls of Harrisburg and Philadelphia. The rootsy singer-songwriter released the critically acclaimed The Better Angelsin 2010, which he recorded in Johnny Cash’s Nashville studio, and lately he’s been working on a follow-up with a band comprised of musicians who played with James Taylor, Lucinda Williams, JJ Cale, to name a few. When he stopped by for a Key Studio Session in 2010, Francis shared his often critical but always eloquent view on struggle in America; listen to “People on the Edge of the World” below. He brings his heartfelt country-twang to The Keswick Theater when he opens for Loretta Lynn on November 30th. Tickets and information are available here.
After spending time in Nashville to pick up some country roots, Philadelphia native John Francis returns to the City of Brotherly Love Saturday, September 29th at Historic St. George’s United Methodist Church. His latest album, The Better Angels, is an Americana record heavy with themes of justice for the working class hero. Francis’ latest work can be seen on the Johnny Cash Music Festival, a special PBS/ DVD to be released in October. His collaboration with Kris Kristofferson, George Jones, Rosanne Cash, and Gary Morris, “No One Gets Out of Here Alive,” will also be on the DVD. Francis joined The Key December 2010 to perform tracks from The Better Angels for The Key Studio Sessions; below, download a performance of “The Way the Empire Fell” from that session.
Tennessee roots rockers Old Crow Medicine Show have come full throttle since they began recording in 1998. After the release of their smash hit “Wagon Wheel” in 2004, it was a steady upward slope. Now they have just come out with their most recent album, Carry Me Back; a new step in their raw country rock sound. With four albums under their buckled belts and a slew of sold out performances, these boot stompin’ folksters have made their signature mark on Americana rock music with a slice of bluegrass. They play at the Electric Factory tonight with very special guests, The Lumineers who performed at our XPoNential Festival a couple weeks ago (you can listen to that entire performance here).
R5 Productions summer concert series at Morgan’s Pier continues tonight with a performance from Jukebox the Ghost. This show is totally free but apologies young’uns, you must be 21 to enter. The show kicks off at 6 p.m. Jukebox also played our free at noon in June, you can listen to it here (via the XPN media player). Special guests tonight also include Norwegian Arms, who you can read more about here (and listen to in the player below).
Ian Bavitz, who goes by the moniker Aesop Rock, practices hip hop while jumping the fence to a new wave underground sound. He’s an indie rapper, a hip hop producer, a San Franciscan. And you can catch him tonight at Union Transfer along with Rob Sonic and DJ Big Wiz. Tickets to this all ages show are $15-17; doors open at 8 p.m. Below watch a video for “Zero Dark Thirty” off his latest album Skelethon.
Tonight at the Tin Angel, WXPN welcomes John Francis. He wrote his first album, Strong Wine & Spirits while living in Philadelphia in 2005, and then followed with his sophomore album The Better Angels after relocating to Nashville. Francis takes inspiration from Johnny Cash and other blues rock influences. He performs tonight at 7:30 p.m., this show is 21+ and tickets are $10, grab yours here.