Another exceptional musical export from the Great White North, Francine Honey’s latest collection To Be Continued… highlights her growing powers as an authentic and individualistic interpreter of Americana musical voices while simultaneously stressing her unique songwriting talents. Some modern performers might run the risk of their material sounding like the aural equivalent of butterflies pinned under glass, but there’s no risk of that with Honey’s material. Instead, the country/blues echoes she invokes with her eleven song third album artfully straddle a line between reverential tribute and pouring old wine into new glasses.
The pensive opening of “Snowflakes on My Eyelashes” has a gossamer-like presence at first, slowly announcing itself, and the approach should, for any newcomers to her music, easily separates Honey from more crassly commercial contemporaries. The poetic touches defining the song’s lyric are never overwrought and Honey brings them to vivid performative life with careful phrasing respectful of their delicacy. One of the song’s best musical elements is the ghostly violin weaving its way through the arrangement. The same considered approach to the marriage of musical and vocal arrangement surfaces in the title track. Honey’s voice often aches with retrospective longing, but there’s genuine pathos in her phrasing that never risks self indulgence or melodrama.
The album’s marquee single “Shacked-Up Sweetie” comes along with an accompanying music video that makes it stand out even brighter among the album’s other songs. The video is a thoroughly professional outing with a strong sense of humor and visual sense, but the heart of the performance lies with her balance between sharply observed details, concrete and otherwise, and a recognizable take on tradition. The song’s energetic blues shuffle is punctuated with some fiery guitar playing.
Lyrical violin returns with the cut “Space: and the spartan backbeat giving the song its spin rewards Honey with a superb foundation from which she can weave her vocal magic. Yet again the lyrical content stands out thanks to its maturity and plain-spoken poetry. Its inward looking without ever finding itself succumbing to despair and the light backing vocals joining Honey during the song’s chorus is another high point. “Mamas Take Bad Dreams Away” is another thoughtfully developed song and performance that unravels with graceful inevitability. One of the album’s most memorable strengths lies with the strength of Honey’s choruses – this song ranks among the best on her third release.
To Be Continued… concludes with “Can’t Break Through to You”, a final reminder, if any is needed, that Honey is working much more within the singer/songwriter tradition of Americana music rather than half-heartedly striking out for some ill-considered pop country glory. There’s a number of lightly applied musical elements making this track come alive and, for a final time, the easy acoustic amble personifying so much of the release is punctuated by well timed flourishes of electric guitar. This is music wrought from real life, in all its varied experiences, and Francine Honey’s voice gives elegant life to the album’s rich emotional terrain. There is a confidence presiding over this collection that suggests Honey has reached an early peak in her recording career.