More Neal Francis


Just wanted to reply to your missive about Neal Francis. What spurred me to write is how gracious his manager Brendan O’Connell’s reply was to you in response to your comment “Someone’s got a deep pocket.” I’d ask you to take a step back and reflect about how dismissive of hard work and sacrifice this  comment is. I played guitar with Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds – toured the US for 9 years, drove over 500,000 miles in a van, we did it all – Austin City Limits, Bonnaroo, Brooklyn Bowl – you name it, we probably played there, whether it was in front of 9 people in a dive in Indianapolis or in front of 15,000 people opening for Grace Potter in Buffalo.

Every single “big ticket item” that we did as a band – buying a Sprinter van, a $50,000 spend making a record – we took loans out and paid them back from working our asses off, tirelessly. There were no handouts, no giant record label advances, no one flying us in private jets. Our first Sprinter van broke down and the repair ate up all the money the band had made on our first 10 week tour back when we were playing for peanuts. We had twice as many people in our band (9) as most other bands, so the financials never worked in our favor. It was a stupid, impractical, foolish idea to think we could make a go of it. We all knew it, and many people tried to warn us off, but we did it anyway. Despite all the band arguments, the number of times we had to drive across the country (NYC to LA to DC in 1 particularly hellish week) on no sleep — these were some of the best memories of my life. The Heard (the band Neal was in before striking out under his own name) opened for us at a now defunct venue in Brooklyn where 12 people showed up in our early days. Those were humbling shows, and there were many of them. You’re demonstrating your life’s work and hopes and all your hopes and dreams and the fact that no one cares is right in your face! The camaraderie shared among bands in our scene that came up together, like The Revivalists, Turkuaz, and the Nth Power, has led to deep, long-lasting friendships and continued collaborations that will last my whole life. We only see each other a few times a year – particularly during Jazz Fest in New Orleans – but our bonds are unbreakable. The shared experience we had – the emotional roller coaster that you ride when you go from headlining festival stages in front of thousands and feeling the magical energy exchange between band and audience to the very next night playing a dive where the band outnumbers the audience – are unlike any other. I can write run-on sentences all day about it – but that shared experience between the musicians imparts an unspoken understanding that goes beyond my ability to spin yarn and ramble on.

I have great respect for your opinion and your perspective on the music industry. Your letters have been an invaluable resource to me as I was wearing other hats in the band, whether it was tour manager, accountant, public relations rep, social media manager, business strategist, or a roadie (often all in the same day). It was exhausting and my efforts often felt unappreciated or unrewarded, particularly when I looked at my empty bank account after a decade of working to help build our band from our first gig in our trombone player’s basement in Brooklyn to my last show with the band 9 years later when we sold out Irving Plaza. I know what the quality of life can be for people like Neal Francis – times where its the highest of highs, and often – the lowest of lows. But I can’t stand idly by while anyone – even someone with your stature – makes an offhand, dismissive comment that seeks to reduce all the actual blood, sweat, and tears that goes into making a record sound good. I can’t overstate how hurtful it is that anyone could have an impression that records sound good because of the assumption that it means that somewhere, someone has deep pockets and made it happen with one John Hancock.

I’ve been living this life for some time now, and I have seen that happen for one or two albums in our scene. The rest, like Neal’s manager wrote above, comes from maxed out credit cards, Kickstarters, playing 200 shows a year, and driving the distance to the moon and back twice (and yes, our band did that, like many others have). I know the work that goes into making good art, and it’s incredibly hurtful for all that effort to be dismissed by you as easily as you did. And this from someone who shows up in the world as a champion of the music industry and of good music and good artists! Major ouch, man.

If minimum wage from the 1970s kept up with inflation, it would be at over $30/hr today. Yet the movement for economic progress has us *fighting* for $15/hour. Rising tides would raise all boats if people could truly see how the rich and powerful have pit We The People against each other. Politicians and (those who place stories in) the Media successfully paint Bernie Sanders to be a “revolutionary leftist”, while in other countries everything he advocates for has long been standard practice. America is not ok, and as the people who are always paid last in the world, artists right now are suffering greatly. As venues have been slowly opening back up, every performing musician has been on the receiving end of the “well, our alcohol still costs the same, and we have to pay our bartenders the same, and now we have extra cleaning costs and only 25% capacity, so we can only pay the band half of what we used to (underpay) them.”

The phrase “just do it for love or for yourself” that gets batted about when talking about artists is a bullshit trope spoken by lazy pseudo-intellectuals. When the pandemic hit and we went into quarantine, how did we all spend our time? By watching Netflix (TV shows are an artistic creation) and listening to music for hours and weeks and days on end to pass the time… Those things, those artistic creations birthed of hard work – bring a smile to our face, set the mood for a romantic night in, or foster a dance party in our living rooms with roommates. These captivating creations transport us to a better place and distract us from the sobering, depressing, terrifying state of the world outside our door. That feeling that music imparts to us – that magic? It has VALUE. It enriches our lives. Babies are conceived to the sounds of records. And yet artists continue to get fucked over by the industry and disgustingly exploited by Big Tech. 

I’m happy that you found Neal’s music – he’s terrific and will only get better with time because, like all of us, the love he has for what he does is boundless and infinite. He’ll be making music til his last breath as long as he can keep his house in order and not let either the trappings – or depressing nature of much of what this life brings – sway him from his path. The road to making good records means missing weddings, missing funerals, means missing your friends from home and your family all year long. There’s a lot of hurt involved, and if we’re lucky, we as artists can alchemize both the hurt and the love and joy that this life brings into the magic of a good song. So, if you’re truly a music fan, please don’t cut down artists by bypassing all the sacrifices we make in order to do what it is we love. We’re not asking for handouts, we just want to feel valued and feel the energy exchange both ways. Because otherwise, without the equitable exchange, the world would go silent. And is that a world that any of us would want to live in?

I didn’t think so.

In Oneness and Love,

Sasha Brown


As an avid show goer of more than 200 per year, I am convinced that the Neal Francis’s of the world are the industry’s backbone far before the big dogs are. Saw Neal twice a couple years back and ready for more. It’s authentic. The end

Kyle Smith


Tell Neal we love what he’s doing (and his label) out here in record store land.


Well hot damn, you found Neal Francis! He’s fantastic. We pushed his album hard at Grimey’s in Nashville and had Neal in for an in-store performance very early on and he blew me away. We sold a lot of records too. I think if Neal were able to be out there touring, playing Coachella, whatever, more people would be getting into him but you’re certainly helping with this coverage today so thanks for that, Bob.

I get a real JJ Cale vibe off of “Changes Pts. 1 & 2” and the New Orleans influence on other tracks is undeniable. I hadn’t listened so closely for the Leon Russell vibes but tonight when I pull the record off my shelf and play it again that will be something to listen for.

Doyle Davis


Hi bob,  thanks for this.   I’m surprised more people aren’t talking about the drummer!  – what a tasty display of groove and chops!

chadwick stokes


Absolutely love it… Spacebomb meets Sly.
Dreaming of dancing to this at a festival some day…
Andy Fordyce


Thanks Bob.  I dig it. New Orleans meets Frankie Miller.    A pleasant surprise

Alan Childs


Hey Bob, late to the party but checked it out… HIGHLY respect him and the band going for an organic, groove based sound but…

The influences are so strong it feels like they are trying a little too hard and while the song is serviceable it doesn’t groove deep enough to remotely compare to the 70’s music it is based on.

The bass is killin’ but the drum sound, while obviously intentional (flat, probably no bottom heads, etc), going for that 70’s funk sound, just isn’t working – too literally retro. Exacerbated by the drummer being a bit stiff – relax and find your own sound, man.

No doubt he can play them keys but you are right the vocals are a weak link. He clearly wants it badly so with a good vocal coach could probably bring them up enough.

They would likely be a fun live show but for recorded music why wouldn’t I listen to Dr. John, the Meters or Leon??

No disrespect but to me it’s good but not great.



Hi bob,  thanks for this.   I’m surprised more people aren’t talking about the drummer!  – what a tasty display of groove and chops!

chadwick stokes


I got dj service on “Changes Pts. 1 & 2” from PlayMPE in 2019 and was hooked. Did same deep dive on him. Always great to see you shine a light on the genuine, Bob. Neal earns all the props he and his band can get.

Cameron Dilley Tampa


horns just as this song hits the four-minute mark and the horns really set in. This is the part of the song worth waiting for. It’s like everything that came before was foreplay, and this is the part you are here for.

Too bad you didn’t like the Low Cut Connie. Don’t know which song, but I love them. Adam Weiner is a great showman. Hope you can get into more of him.

Mike Stein in Cleveland


Bob, tell Neal Francis and his band to get to Australia, when all this is over. Get to Laneway Festival. Get on Triple J national radio. Get in touch with Ken West.

Maybe just source some local gear to save on air cargo. We would absolutely love the shit out of his grooves. We know the real deal when we see it.

Agree with you about the vocals on Changes. But that can always improve. All else fails, more REVERB.

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