Rising blues star Angelique Francis has a new album out ahead of Ottawa Grassroots
It takes so much more than a strong voice, songs, and performing ability to break through the ocean’s swell of talent out there; it also takes a special something that, while hard to pinpoint, is undeniably irresistible. With that, there’s no denying powerhouse blues singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Angelique Francis has ‘it,’ and she’s letting it flow for the immense pleasure of listeners everywhere with the release of her highly anticipated second album, Long River.
The release’s first single is “Storms From My Eyes,” a stunning slow-burner of a song, a languid, classic blues heartbreaker to kick off the engrossing voyage down the Ottawa artist’s new 14-track collection.
Blues traditions are at the heart of all of the songs, but there are also intriguing genre bends towards soul, folk, jazz, gospel, and rock along the way. Angelique’s versatile, soulful, and evocative vocals anchor the trip, conjuring up reminiscences of Big Mama Thornton, Koko Taylor, Aretha, Bessie Smith and more. And it’s the mixture of genres and influences running through Long River — and the sense of everything and everyone being connected — that anchor the key concept Angelique wanted to convey.
“Despite our differences, and the vast variations in our personal histories, we are all floating down this river together,” she said. “We are all connected in this way. We have all shared the same beginning, and we will all share the same end.”
The title track of the album was written about the River of Life, she added. The universal connection and journey of all humanity is the thread that binds this project together.
“This analogy is the focal point on which this album of completely original songs is based,” Angelique said. “A multitude of stories, experiences, and emotions of joy, pain, triumph, anger, love, embarrassment, and humour are reflected throughout.”
From the pure heartache of “Storms From My Eyes” to the righteous anger of “Who is Caroline” to the joy and devotion of “I’ve Never” and the revival celebration of “Soul Train Life,” Long River rolls over an exciting variety of musical territory. As Angelique plainly and proudly puts in the album’s description, Long River is “a studio album recorded with live instruments” — and she plays several of them herself.
In addition to lead vocals, she plays upright bass, electric bass, harmonica, acoustic and electric guitar, organ, and keyboards. Joining her are four of her family members: co-songwriter, producer, drummer and vocalist Kiran Francis, saxophonist and vocalist Kharincia Francis, trombonist and vocalist Kira Francis, and vocalist Kayla Francis. Rounding out the band are Dave Williamson on lead electric guitar and Ed Lister on trumpet.
The fact that music is an all-in the-family thing for Angelique is not surprising as she was immersed in it from childhood — first taking the stage at age seven and then making her national TV debut on the Oprah Network at age 13 for writing and composing a theme song for The Gayle King Show. By age 14, she had already become a proficient acoustic guitar, upright bass, electric guitar, and electric bass player and was performing at a multitude of festivals. In 2018, she released her first album of original music, Kissed By The Blues.
She and her band have been featured at the Keeping the Blues Alive at Sea festival, Sighisoara Blues Festival (Romania), Massey Hall (Women’s Blues Revue), Montreal Jazz Festival, Mariposa Folk Fest, Ottawa Jazz Festival, Ottawa Blues Festival, Mont-Tremblant Blues Festival, Ottawa Folk Fest, and many more.
Her impressive list of credits and growing caché in the Canadian music industry has led her to be invited to host the upcoming 2022 Maple Blues Awards to be held both live and online from Toronto’s Koerner Hall on Monday, June 20.
With her new album setting a high-water mark buoying her along, Angelique Francis is ready to storm international stages again in 2022 with appearances already scheduled in Europe later this spring with more to come.