Frank Smith is not a person. At first glance, I assumed that this album was from a singer-songwriter from Boston. Well, I got the Boston part correct, but Frank Smith is actually a band. There is nobody named Frank Smith whatsoever in this fantastic, indie-country group.
The origins of this group stems from a single musician, Aaron Sinclair, who you may know from his work in The Lot Six and Drexel. He began to work on some solo material under the moniker LaGuardia, releasing his first batch of tunes in 2002. Since then he has surrounded himself with six other talented musicians, renamed the group and has now released their fourth album under Frank Smith, Red On White.
It is pretty interesting to hear an album with this much classic Southern twang coming from the land of clam chowder. Sinclair does have Texas roots, which does explain quite a bit. Frank Smith's old school country sound is honest and genuine, dark and gloomy at times, such as on the banjo plucking of "Apocalypse Circa Now." Yup, this ain't your grandpappy's country music. Sinclair sends chills when he wails the line "Catastrophes keep happenin' the roof is fallin' down the walls are collapsing concrete is crackin' the gasoline is lightin' up."
Although it isn't quite as bleak as the previous song, "L.O.V.E." is far from a knee slappin' good time. The honky-tonk piano and banjo is supported by a shuffling beat. Next up is one of the greatest Bruce Springsteen covers I have heard. Frank Smith took on the Boss' classic "I'm On Fire" and truly made it their own. Led by a slide guitar, the steady picking of a banjo and some haunting backing harmonies, this is easily one of the standout tracks from Red On White.
The tempo picks up on "It Ain't Right," although the subject of the song is far from cheerful. Sinclair takes a swing at W with lines such as: "He's been wastin' all our time he's been lyin' to our faces and smilin' through his teeth." The album finishes out with "Black And Blue," "Time To Cut The Fence" and "Bumblee Bee," three great songs that balance between country and indie rock.
Records this solid don't come along all that often. Do yourself a favor and snag a copy of Red On White. Banjo has never sounded this damn cool.