Red Neck, Blue Collar
First Appeared in The Music Box, February 2008, Volume 15, #2
Written by John Metzger
Tue February 19, 2008, 07:00 AM CST
In more ways than one, Bob Frank’s Red Neck, Blue Collar is a throwback to another era. Not only do his gentle, acoustic arrangements conjure the same warm and earthy atmospheres of the early 1970s, singer-songwriter movement, but also his lyrics and his delivery find common ground among predecessors like Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie and peers such as John Prine and Kris Kristofferson. After issuing his self-titled debut in 1972, Frank virtually disappeared from the recording business, a feat he undoubtedly helped to achieve when he blew off a promotional tour and refused to perform any of the songs from his new album at the record release party thrown for him by his label Vanguard. Nevertheless, although he soon was out of sight, he never was completely out of mind.
Over the years, Frank’s legend grew among folk fiends and collectors alike, and in 2001, he began to record and release his material independently. He broke his nearly 30-year silence by creating new music for an old, English ballad (A Little Gest of Robin Hood), but it was his work with co-producer Jim Dickinson on Keep on Burning that put him back on the map. Red Neck, Blue Collar, Frank’s latest effort, is something of a retrospective in that it gives wider distribution to a series of tracks that were selected carefully from Keep on Burning as well as his subsequent endeavors Pledge of Allegiance and Ride the Restless Wind. Regardless of its conception, the collection makes a fully cohesive statement of its own.
Throughout Red Neck, Blue Collar, Frank dabbles in country, blues, and folk, and he situates cowboy songs (Out on the Prairie) alongside portraits of Southern living (Little Ol’ Cabin Home). On Judas Iscariot, he irreverently turns the story of Jesus’ betrayal into a weirdly humorous, hashish-stoked, gambling tale, while the title track pays tribute to the laborers upon whose backs America was built but who now are struggling to make ends meet. Although Frank is at his best when he’s singing for the workingman, there’s nary a dull moment to be found on Red Neck, Blue Collar. Whether he’s rallying union workers (One Big Family) or pointing out the hypocrisy that separates America’s obsession with religion from its actions (Pledge of Allegiance), one thing is certain: Frank’s return didn’t come a moment too soon. ˝
Red Neck, Blue Collar is available from
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2008 The Music Box