American Blues Scene, Barry Kerzner
Yep; get you a heapin’ helping of Franc Robert & The Boxcar Tourists‘ Mulligan Stew. Then, go back for more! This album is a breath of fresh air in a cluttered field of wannabes. It does not pretend to be anything other than good music and a good time. Overall, the album has a Juke Joint feel to it; great music with that back-to-basics, uncluttered sound, and an enthusiastic delivery.
The Boxcar Tourists are Franc Robert on guitars, lap steel, and vocals; Trent Scholl on bass and vocals, and Dave Simmons on drums and vocals. Also along for the ride are Lee Pons on piano and organ, and Smokin’ Joe Sadowski on harp. Roberts has said that the Boxcar Tourists are “kinda musical hobos.” They take us along for an informative and exciting journey on Mulligan Stew. So, let’s dig in.
The album starts off with the lively “Let’s Go Jukin.” This is followed by the hard rocking, foot stomping “Coal Burning Locomotive.” “Beale Street Memories” and “Why Can’t I Be Your Man” have that Memphis soul feel to them: slow, bluesy and soulful, with some nice guitar playing by Robert. “Mulligan Stew” has a country swing feel and some great playing from the whole band. The band also does a really fine job on the acoustic numbers “Lay My Body Down”, The Devil At Your Door”, and “It’s Morning Time.” The playing on these three songs was spot on and very well done. “Ohh Baby” is another foot tapper, and “Your Crying Eyes” is a very smooth blues cut. “Ya Can’t Have Nothin” is a slow, slide guitar feast and “You Worry Me” is more of a shuffle slide piece; both are extremely satisfying. Lee Pons and Smokin’ Joe Sadowski do a fine job throughout on piano and harp, respectively. Also: Some might find Robert’s vocals eerily reminiscent of Bootsy Collins, and it actually works well here.
This album is a good time with some fine playing, and definitely one you want to have in your collection.
Suncoast Blues Society (George Willett)
Franc Robert & the Boxcar Tourists
After his foray into solo performance and recording (Check out the outstanding “Why Do I Never Win”) Franc Robert has moved back to the band format…And brought all his edgy slide guitar touches with him! (And did I mention that he wrote all the songs…and did the cover art and layout too?)
The brash boogie of “Lets go Jukin“will get you into the spirit of the thang…It may be an invitation and it may be a dare! You’ll want to go though, pulled along by Franc’s guitar and old “Back Alley” cohort Smokin’ Joe Sadowski’s harp. “Ohh Baby” has a swampy, John Fogarty-ish feel to it; Franc tears it up on lead guitar while Trent and Dave keep on chooglin’. Fun! If you’re a Blues fan and “Ya Can’t Have Nothin” doesn’t drag you in you better check your pulse because you might be failin’! There’s massive electric slide-guitar of the “J.B. Hutto in slow-Blues trio” school, all underpinning the tale of a life turned sour. That’s all good Blues material but, damn, it’s that guitar and it just rips!
Franc Robert has been a Suncoast Blues Society representative at the International Blues Challenge two (very!) different times now. The first trip was as lead guitarist for the Walker Smith group, and the second was as the solo/duo representative. To shine in both of these very different formats takes deep understanding of the genre and ability as a Blues performer. He’s an original! – George Willett
Billtown Blues Notes
Franc Robert & the Boxcar Tourists
Franc Robert & the Boxcar Tourists are a Florida based band that manages to hit the nail on the head, giving the audience some rockin’ soul-drenched music while holding to the blues. All too often rock and roll bands tend to jump on the blues bandwagon trying to capitalize on the genre’s popularity. The Boxcar Tourists deliver a diverse selection of blues, played from the heart and from their wells of experience. This is the music that has been played in jukes throughout the South on weekends as people would look for a way to cut loose, relieve a little tension and relax after a hard week at work. Top that off with the fact that the band plays material that the crowd can relate to and you have a real winner. The fact that all the tunes on Mulligan Stew are originals, written by Franc Robert adds to the greatness of this recording. The musicianship is outstanding, pouring straight from the heart and, while there is nothing here that made my head spin, the CD is solid as a rock, firmly rooted in the blues and there is more than enough incentive to fill the dance floor. Well deserving of the title Mulligan Stew, there is something here for everybody, regardless of the preference in style. Hard working musicians doing what they love most, what’s not to like? Given the opportunity, go out and catch their performance. It would be my guess that their show would leave the recording, as good as it is, sitting in the dust. Live or on CD, you won’t be disappointed. – Bill Wilson
Franc Robert & The Boxcar Tourists: Mulligan Stew
I met Franc Robert last year at the IBC’s in Memphis, first saw him sitting jamming away late at night, and he could play that lap steel pretty well. So when I got this release I jumped at it to hear what he would do with a full band of his own.
Straight outta the box he hits the ground running with ‘Let’s Go Jukin”. A tribute to the quality and variety of Blues clubs down in Georgia & Florida he names names and the band rolls and thunders straight through. Smokin Joe Sadowski on harp and Lee Pons tickling those 88′s create a great wall of sound that makes ya wanna jump AirTran and get yourself down there.= to get with the jukin’.
Franc knows the Blues Highway really well. We get a glimpse of riding the rails in ‘Coal Burnin Locomotive’ where we are reminded that no hobos allowed. With a beat and feel of said locomotive but with a Foghat familiarity he sets the rails afire with some nasty slide work over top of the chug-a-chug drum beat of Dave Simmons. Train songs in the Blues can be overdone but not here, this is a honest expose of life on the rails well done by Franc and the band.
The Blues used to rule Memphis town, yeh but now it’s a tad different. Yes there are still Blues in the clubs and some damn fine stuff too, but its not where the money is for a lot of clubs – sad but glad there are still some Blues clubs out there. Mr. Robert addresses this in a sweet Blues number called “Beale Street Memories” lyrics that are a roll-call of the Blues artists that ruled the Memphis streets. Displaying some tasty work on his trusty six-string he cuts a wide path and in doing so opens the clubs and the streets once again to all Blues performers. Nicely done.
The title track is a country flavored swing, chicken lickin’-finger pickin’ call to all to take all of life’s disappointments, troubles and bad times and stick them in that pot of “Mulligan Stew”. Good thought, just don’t eat too much (just sayin’).
In a nice minor blues number ‘Your Crying Eyes’ Franc’s guitar duels with himself as Lee Pons fills the background with some tasty keyboard work.
This all original twelve track release shows us that Mr. Robert is indeed familiar with the road and that it has a place in his blood as a working musician he tells us the story of that life and in doing so helps to find his inner voice. The road is long and he seems capable of handling the twists and turns of that road and progressing nicely in the future.
Blues Underground Network
Franc Robert & the Boxcar Tourists “Mulligan Stew” (USA)
It is now October and as we head into the cooler months, there is really nothing that warms one more than a good hardy stew and when it comes to warming ones ears, there is really nothing better then a hearty serving of “Mulligan Stew”, the super fine release from Franc Robert & the Boxcar Tourists. “Mulligan Stew” marks the 4th release for Franc Robert and the first under the name, Franc Robert & the Boxcar Tourists.
Franc Robert & the Boxcar Tourists are considered the hardest working Blues band in Florida and now after 30+ years of hard grinding, it is all starting to really pay off, as they offer up a gritty blend of what they call Down N’ Dirty Groovy Swampy Blues.
“Mulligan Stew” consists of 12 great Tracks, all written by Franc Robert, that cover a wide swath of territory, from Memphis Blues, Acoustic Blues, Jazzy Blues, Blues Rock, Swampy Steel Guitar Blues, and Beyond. Stepping in as the Boxcar Tourists are the rest of the band which includes, Trent Sholl (Bass/Vocals), and Dave Simmons (Drums/Vocals). Franc Robert is the main Vocalist and also plays Guitars and Lap Steel. For Special Guests on “Mulligan Stew”, they picked a couple of great ones which included, Lee Pons (Piano/Organ) and Smokin’ Joe Sadowski (Harp).
One of the things that quickly caught my attention as I started to listen to “Mulligan Stew”, was the vocals of Franc Robert, which to me sounded a little like Jimi Hendrix, with a slight bit of Lenny Kravitz around the edges. This Vocal quality really matched the music and lyrics to perfection and was a nice treat to hear a set of pipes so intriguing.
For favorites on “Mulligan Stew”, I did not that easy of a time picking the top 3 as this is a heck of a solid album from beginning to end, but never the less here goes…
My first favorite was Track 2 “Coal Burnin’ Locomotive”, a hard driven number, with a feel of Kravitz’s “Are You Gonna Go My Way”. This is the one that gets you off your seat if you are not already up a groovin from the first Track. Awesome…
My second favorite was the next Track “Beale Street Memories”, a full blown Traditional Memphis Style Blues number. This one has Lee Pons accompanying with great work on the Keys. You could easily imagine this slow yet very intense song, being sung by the Rolling Stones.
The third favorite was the closer, “It’s Morning Time” a beautifully done Acoustic number that really takes no time at all uplifting ones spirit. This one sounds like just Franc and his Guitar, although there may be a slight bit of Bass there as well. A great way to end “Mulligan’s Stew”, that left me with a true feeling of Wow.
Franc Robert & the Boxcar Tourists are a rare group whom have put together a rare album indeed in “Mulligan Stew”, as this is the kind of great music that does not come around that often. I can only imagine how great it would be to play this album when camping around the campfire, as this one just has that right feel to it that can really warm the soul.
5***** for “Mulligan Stew”, a great album from an equally great group of artists.
Highly Recommended and Thoroughly Enjoyed.
Review by John Vermilyea (Blues Underground Network)
Wasser-Prada (German Online magazine)
By Clapton through musical history to traditional Blues sound for Franc Robert’s musical development has declined since the 80s of the 20th Century. With his current band The Boxcar Tourists he presents on “Mulligan Stew” a mixture of blues and acoustic numbers rockendem.
“Let’s Go Jukin ‘- with this number open losgroovenden forward Francesco Roberts and his Boxcar Tourists their” Mulligan Stew “. Being deliberately unclear whether on the 1979 novel by Gilbert Sorrentino at the failure of an author or the improvised meals of American Tramps in the early 20th Century will be played. However, the second version more plausible in view of the musical diversity of the album. The way for the Mulligan all available ingredients of onions, potatoes, bread, stolen chicken and boiled like a pot together, so find here numbers of blues rock a la Texas on slide blues on the National Steel in the succession Son House and Robert Johnson to swinging rhythm & blues and soul blues all have what is necessary for a diverse court = album. And of failure and there is no sound. No, it will be activated by the liver away that you feel sic sometimes even reminiscent of Johnny Winter “Progressive Blues Experience”: This is where musicians kneel with commitment so long in a song, to every single nuance is logical and compelling.
The themes sound like the time of the Hobos, when sung by steam locomotives. But at the same time will prevent any nostalgia: Blues for Robert Franc just not finished story, but a living process of making music. “Mulligan Stew” is not grasp so with geographical positions: Robert comes from Montreal and now lives in Florida. But in the 21st as a blues player Century he has internalized all the regional styles and game show. That he was initially impressed with Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy and Robert Cray, especially in the violent electrical numbers is noticeable. His love of the early Mississippi blues can be felt in songs like “Lay My Body Down”. Overall, “Mulligan Stew” an outstanding album of the year 2012 and can only be recommended highly enough.