Jonathan Leonard

photo: Everett B. Wilson 1961

Review of On A Shingle Near Yapton in “Leonard’s Lair” (April 2012) by Jonathan Leonard:

If ever the term late bloomer applies it is to New York’s singer/songwriter/poet David Francis who has enraptured audiences, in Britain in particular, with his 1960′s-styled compositions. Further emphasising his love of England, he has seen fit to entitle his latest album On A Shingle Near Yapton.

There’s a satisfying earthiness to this recording from first song to last. You can certainly picture Francis at work in his friend’s shed accompanied by the minimum of equipment. “You’ve Come To See Me” is full of the passion of Francis’ vocal and off-kilter musical flourishes. Those deviations occasionally derail the melodic flow of the record; the stop-start rhythms of “Execution Of A Spy” being a prime example. However, “Dream London” is imbued with hazy nostalgia whereas the excellent “The Girl Got On” evokes a sense of intrigue and romance .

Yet it is at the end of the record when the most powerful moment of the album occurs. Backed by musician friends from Cornwall, Vancouver and Detroit, the group effort drives this song into a convincing song of defiance which actually caused the Government to back down on plans to convert green fields into housing developments.

Equal parts troubled folk singer, virtuoso guitarist, Green campaigner and published poet, On A Shingle Near Yapton reflects the diverse talents of Francis but this approach also leads to a rather awkward album which isn’t as seamless as it could have been. That’s probably kind of the point though, since Francis is a true free spirit; taking on the influences from both musical and environmental sources and distilling them into his unique, if occasionally unfocused vision.