This Frankie Lee article was written by Ashleigh Clarke, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Macon Oxley
With his true cowboy pluck and honest lyrics accompanying the wistful guitar, Frankie Lee’s ‘American Dreamer’ is an album which is the epitome of nostalgia. His nasally southern drawl is even more delicious and tempting as the songs go on, each of them reflecting a sense of melancholy and heart-achingly good melodies. Beneath his stubble and smoke stained lips lies a restless soul desperately wanting to open our eyes to the world.
The album opens with ‘High and Dry’ and although the song may sound like your typical humble country song, it isn’t. The underlying message is about “urging people to grow their own food for when capitalism fails them”. The lyrics, “they’re gonna leave us high and dry”, is a message to farmers to be prepared for when it happens. Only one song in and the use of simple yet effective lyricism has made us see what is happening around us. Sliding along nicely into ‘Where Do We Belong’, this upbeat wanderlust tune has us tapping our foot along and bobbing our heads. Along with ‘East Side Blues’ – he mentioned that this song was an ode to the capitalist investors and developers who have destroyed towns what were once your home – the lyrics, “a stranger in your own damn town”, convey a sense of feeling homesick and not knowing where you belong any more.
With the echoing drumbeat tapping alongside the yearning strings of the guitar, ‘Queen of Carolina’ slows the album down to a romantic tone. The beautiful harmonica solo during the bridge of the song is the cherry on top; it’s wonderfully crafted to make the listener feel a wave of reminiscence wash over them. ‘Horses’, he says, is a song that wrote itself in a dream one night, not really knowing what it’s about but knowing who it’s about. The lyrics are all about having time on your hands and using that time to change for the better, and being able to move on. Old flame maybe? We’re not sure, but the ambiguity of the song bears a sense of reflectiveness and making amends.
Speeding things up a bit, ‘Black Dog’ uses delicate yet hard-hitting guitar playing and thumping drums to make way for the unapologetic lyrics about society feeding us lies and resisting temptation to throw it back in its face. This song is all about finally having enough and standing up for what’s right – a true reflection on the artist himself. ‘Buffalo’ was written whilst being on the road, gazing upon the North Dakota Badlands and drinking in the sights around him. It’s a blood-pumping, energetic song about where home really is and working for yourself. The lyrics suggest a sense of loneliness and how long it must take before you find something worth sticking around for.
Is a man really being honest when he says he is? Maybe. ‘Honest Man’ gives the listener something to think about. We’re looking at love through his ideologies and reflecting upon who people want their dream guy to be. The song is all about knowing better and being realistic about what he’s really like and who he really is. The song is both heart-breaking and genuine. ‘Know by Now’ uses a prom-like slow dance feel to portray how “usually pretty girls who have never had a job aren’t ready to deal with a working class man’s reality”, the song ties in with ‘Honest Man’ as he sings about looking at love from a realistic standpoint, and the guy you’ve dreamt up isn’t going to be the one you settle down with. The lyrics again are very honest and authentic. Last but not least we have ‘American Dreamer’, and this is a perfect song to end the album on. He stated that he’s singing this to you and not at you. You can definitely feel his sorrow in this heartfelt, piano-driven song. Coming from an outsider’s standpoint, reflecting upon society and how nothing is changing (“I was thinking that the world was gonna change”), it’s only getting worse as time goes on. “You can’t make me” suggests he’s not giving into society and their views.
The album as a whole leaves the listener feeling satisfied and blissfully aware of the world that we’re living in. His gritty and bluesy tones set in stone the social aspects of each song, and his polished lyrics are forthright and brutally honest.
This definitely won’t be the last we hear from him. ‘American Dreamer’ is now available on Loose Records.