Frank Carline – Black Crow Blues

Album Review | Resofone Recordings | Review by Allan Wilkinson

Doncaster’s favourite bluesman Frank Carline returns with ten songs on the first of two proposed acoustic albums, each recorded in the attic studio of neighbour, producer and good pal John Crisp.  The so-called ‘one take’ recordings are by definition off the floor recordings that capture the essence of Frank’s live sound.  This first volume features a selection of four originals, a couple of Dylan covers, a George Jones standard and three blues classics, each performed in Frank’s distinctive style.  Of the originals, “Poppy Day” is possibly the most personal song, reminding us of the ravages of war and its effect on an ordinary northern family.  Frank has never abandoned his roots and has effectively remained a fixture on the ever-evolving Doncaster music scene for the best part of half a century and often reminds us of the good old days such as when Dylan’s “Watching the River Flow” could often be heard on the jukebox at the Silver Link pub along Bradford Row in the early 1970s. 

At the album launch at his local Roots Music Club, all the songs came out to play, despite recuperating from a recent bicycle accident, which involved a faulty manhole cover, which has left Frank nursing several fractured bones and a heavily bruised face.  “I’m going to get one of those Phantom of the Opera masks” quipped Frank from the stage at the launch. 

If the steadily strummed take on George Jones’ “Bar Tender Blues” is slightly out of Frank’s comfort zone, then Robert Johnson’s “Come in my Kitchen” is very much back to Frank’s more familiar fare, as he accompanies himself with some informed bottleneck guitar playing.  The title song sees Frank delivering some strident slide playing and a convincing vocal, revisiting Dylan’s lyrics with some urgency, which may possibly be one of the reasons why Frank sees this as a ‘dark’ album.  A fine harmonica player, Frank was under instructions not to exert himself on the instrument during the launch, but on this album, those notes ring out clear.  Hopefully Frank will be back on his feet soon but in the meantime Black Crow Blues is a fine example of why he remains a much loved figure in his hometown.

Choice Track: Come on in My Kitchen (NSV 493)