One of the wonders of the Internet is being able to track down artists from a previous era, get in touch with fellow fans and reignite old musical passions. I was lucky enough to be on the receiving end of all three of these when it comes to Billy Franks. I was a fan of his band The Faith Brothers from the 1980s. I heard pretty much nothing of Billy for 15 years or so and couldn't even find any old Faith Brothers music either. Then a friend of mine who I know through The Alarm told me about Billy Franks and his solo career. I went down to see Billy and his band play outside Guildford at some sports club and I have never looked back.
Obviously I was completely in awe of seeing him playing some old Faith Brothers songs after so many years, but I was immediately completely hooked by his solo songwriting skills and how these songs were presented. Not only on that night did Billy play this bizarre venue, but a coach load of his ever faithful fans came down as well from London.
I got myself acquainted with his solo albums all of which are beautiful in their own right featuring some wonderful songs. The first solo album "Mass" has the wonderful "Beautiful Heresy", "The Boy Who Was Afraid Nothing" and the simply wonderful title track "Mass". The 2nd album "Genius & Grace" was an album full of gorgeous songs including "Sleep A Little Easy When It Rains" and "Angel At Your Elbow". By the time the 3rd album "Sex Laughter & Meditation" came out I was seeing Billy play live in London on a regular basis. This 3rd album really is a brilliantly crafted album featuring classic songs such as "Girl Of Your Dreams" and "One Summer In New York". There was a long wait for the 4th and most recent album "The Turtledove Boutique", but it was well worth the wait and features a beautiful and haunting song called "50/50 America".
And as wonderful as the studio recordings are for me, Billy comes into his own when he is live on stage. The songs are taken to a completely different level. Billy's passion for music comes across and he gives absolutely everything to every song he performs. I defy anyone to go to one of his gigs and not come away having had a brilliant evening. What I like about him is also the way he is a humble and warm spirited man who has a great affinity with all his fans. He will always greet everyone at his gigs by their first name, give them a hug and take the time to have a chat. Many of these fans have followed Billy since The Faith Brothers days are friends first with Billy before being fans. His stories of his former years are funny, touching and hopefully coming out in a book soon. He also made a film "Tribute This" which documented the story of Billy and his three American friends trying to get famous artists to cover his own songs making a tribute album of said material. It is a wonderful film both touching and funny. Ultimately not one artist said yes and the real stars of the film were the normal people who played their parts in trying to help Billy and his friends along the way. Billy is just a normal guy bringing some wonderful music into this world that brightens up my life for sure. And I suppose for me that is what makes Billy Franks the man I think he is.