Home Album review David Francey – The Breath Between

David Francey – The Breath Between

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By the time the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, Juno-winning Canadian folk singer David Francey was already battling the worst plague known to performers the world over: the loss of his singing voice.

After 25 years of living the troubadour’s life with the same dedication with which he once hauled concrete and framed houses, he had found himself wondering if this was it for his music career.

So his new album, The Breath Between, his first in six years, is more than just a post-lockdown showcase of creative inspiration drawn from the pandemic’s forced down-time.

The album, which comes out tomorrow, was born out of the existential crisis brought on by the loss of David’s primary means of expression – and the creative rejuvenation that came with regaining it.

It’s a more intimate and introspective album than his previous outings, the brawny work songs and bluegrass banjo replaced with gentle piano and supporting vocals from David’s newfound co-writer and quasi muse Terra Spencer.

“When I met her, I just felt like I was talking to the best singer-songwriter I’ve heard in decades,” David told me. “[She’s] an absolute natural.

Thematically, The Breath Between captures David at retirement age reflecting on the journey of life – looking back wistfully on childhood friendship on “I Called it Love” and delivering a mature love song for his wife, Beth, on “One Day,” which features his son, Colin, on backing vocals.

But perhaps the most affecting songs are the ones about the other end of life.

On “Offering,” David describes in bleak, beautiful detail a visit to a hospital to bid a final farewell to a friend.

On “This Morning,” he sings about feeling the loss of John Prine.

The title of the album speaks to the idea that life passes like a breath, and we are living in the moment between the inhale and exhale, David explained.

Fittingly, the line-up of musicians on The Breath Between comes from every era of David’s musical career. It features his original late 90s band of Geoff Sommers and Dave Clarke, long-time sidemen Darrin McMullen and Mark Westberg, and of course, newly minted collaborator Terra.

It also features contributions from the members of Vishten, including Pastelle LeBlanc, who subsequently died of breast cancer in 2022 at the impossibly young age of 42.

When an artist has been on the scene as long as David has been, it can be a challenge to stay fresh and exceed expectations — especially when, as David has, you’ve already set the expectations impossibly high.

But David has changed things up here just enough to keep it interesting without alientating his long-time fans.

And, as you might expect, the songs are as strong as ever.

Watch for Jan Vanderhorst’s interview with David this Saturday on Roots Music Canada.

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