Paul Collins from Maverick Magazine wrote...
Classic country beautifully sung!
Receives 4 out of 5 stars!
As they are reminders of special songs, albums of covers have to be really good to demand and retain attention and this set is just dazzling. Selectively dipping into the country catalog of the past fifty years. Amy has picked out some real plums here and it's a moot point whether or not time has dulled my memory, but many of them sound better here than the originals: Picture Of Me Without You, I'll Share My World With You, and Apartment No. 9. And although it may be sacrilege for a country music reviewer to admit it. I was never a big fan of the possum, but boy did he get offered some cracking songs. In the early 1990's twenty years after George's original, Picture of me was again a monster hit, this time for Lorrie Morgan and Amy's version knocks that into a cocked hat too.
There are two songs which were first time hits for artists who subsequently became very well established country stars. Don't Touch Me Hank Cockran's for the then unknown Jeannie Sealy which subsequently won a Grammy and When I Call Your Name which was Vince Gill's biggest hit and I don't think that he has ever written a better song. Again Amy we and truly nails both with Detamore's pedal steel being attractively prominent on the Gill cover. Willie Nelson's I'm still Not Over You which was a monster hit for Ray Price, Fool Number One a smash pop hit for Brenda Lee and above all Don Gibson's Sweet Dreams which is forever associated with the great Patsy Cline, a singer to whom it is not extravagant to compare Amy to.
Amy's Texas born and bred and with a young family to raise is unlikely to get involved in touring too far from her roots. A pity because, being selfish about it, with a voice and feeling for a song that frankly knocks the socks off many of today's top country stars and still only in her mid thirties, Amy Francis deserves a much wider audience. This album will certainly help.
Baron Lane from Twang Nation.com wrote...
Bodacious is a Southern/Southwestern portmanteau of bold and audacious. It’s meaning is remarkable, courageous, audacious, spirited and unmistakable.
Corpus Christi TX native Amy Francis uses this linguistic fusion and forms the title of her new release , Balladacious. Just as she reinterprets words Francis also uses this skill to give her own take on some of country music’s best-known classics.
The album opens with Francis beautiful voice powerfully breaking the silence with a vulnerable delivery of the Hank Cochran barroom lament Don’t Touch Me. Francis brings the longing and apprehension contained in the song to a palatable level and disarms you of all cynicism. A staple of country music is it’s unabashed sentiment and Francis’ heart is emblazoned boldly on this first song.
The spirits of Patsy Cline, Tammy Wynette and Brenda Lee are conjured
with all their romantic weariness giving testament. Not just because
Francis covers Sweet Dreams, Apartment No. 9 and Fool Number One
respectively, but because she is a believer. She brings authenticity to
these songs because she embodies them wholly not simply mimicking them
like many Music City talen dipping a toe in traditionalism.
Her take on Bobbie Gentry’s Ode to Billy Joe reworks this dark song of small-town gossip and makes it swing with an acoustic guitar and strings accompaniment. Her covers of George Jone’s Picture of Me Without You and I’ll Share My World With You elevates them to the honky-tonk majesty they deserve and Vince Gill’s hit When I Call Your Name is covered with barrel-house piano and pedal steel accompaniment and achieves a forlornness that LeAnn Rimes’s cover never came close to. Ronnie Milsap’s Stranger Things Have Happened is given an equal turn with Francis’ voice soaring at heights while singing about the depths. The hope against hope and lessons contained in these testimonials of despair makes country music some of the greatest forms of contemporary tragedy. Francis approaches each with dignity and grace they deserve and strikingly nimble vocals that breath life into every barroom confession.
I have an ambivalent relationship with Nashville Sound era country
music. When Owen Bradley, with Chet Atkins and Bob Ferguson moved
hillbilly music from the hollers and honky tonks to the supper clubs, by
adding strings, backing vocals and other adornment better suited for
crooners of the day, they laid the path toward the enormously lucrative
but culturally superficial pop-country industry we’ve inherited. Like
the great performers of the Nashville Sound era Francis charms me into
putting aside bias by keeping the soul enact while stripping back just
enough veneer to let you hear the heart break.
Amazon.com reviewer, Timothy Yap wrote...
5.0 out of 5 stars Francis Satisfying Balladacious,
Balladacious opens with the unaccompanied piercing voice of Amy Francis. As soon as Francis croons the first line of the Hank Cochran's standard Don't Touch Me, you know you are in the presence of greatness. Conjuring up the weather-worn brokenness of Tammy Wynette, the seasoned maturity of Lorrie Morgan and the transparent vulnerability of Pam Tillis, Francis has a voice finds ways to make in-roads into our hearts. As the title suggests, this is a collection of ballads that spans over a wide swath of country music's history from Patsy Cline's Sweet Dreams to Tammy Wynette's Apartment No. 9 to Brenda Lee's Fool Number One to Ray Price's I'm Still Not Over You to more recent works like Ronnie Milsap's Stranger Things Have Happened and Vince Gill's When I Call Your Name. Despite being released on a small independent imprint, most satisfying is that this is an impeccably produced disc. "Class" is spelt all across this record: the lushful set of strings, the sensitive and unobtrusive steel, and the old fashioned feel calling to mind Owen Bradley's finest records.
Ever since Lorrie Morgan cut an excellent version of George Jones' A Picture of Me Without You in the early 90s, no one could rival Morgan's rendition. Not until Amy Francis--Francis has a way of making heartbreak palatable through her phrasings and pauses. Producer Tommy Detamore has given Hank Cochran's Don't Touch Me a Patsy Cline-ish veneer that sonically transports Francis back in time when singing was more about bearing one's soul than selling records. Similarly stunning is Francis' take of Ray Price's I'm Still Not Over You. Other than Francis' gorgeous set of pipes, the wonderful fiddle flourishes and mournful steel guitar really takes this classic to a new level. While Francis' take of Patsy Cline's Sweet Dreams stays religious close to the original with the bevy male chorus providing the backing "ah-has."
Francis has taken some liberties with a few covers: taken at a pace slower than original is her take of Ode to Billy Joe. Backed gently with just a guitar, Francis tells this small town tragic saga with refreshing care taking time to develop her characters three dimensionally. Recently LeAnn Rimes has resurrected Vince Gill's signature hit When I Call Your Name. While Rimes could not escape Gill's nagging vocal grasp, Francis could. Francis has re-created this forlorn ode of loneliness without trying to carbon copy Vince Gill's own dreggy original. On the other hand, Francis' doesn't have the rasp of Tammy Wynette to bring out the weary toil of the lyrics of Apartment No 9.
With some striking resemblance to Lee Ann Womack, Francis with Steve Maynard on backing vocals takes a break from the heartbreak theme with I'll Share My World With You. And Ronnie Milsap's Stranger Things Have Happened retains that soulfulness of the original that is a pure delight. Overall, Balladacious is sonically a "delicious" serving of classic country served by a voice to die for over backings that oozes class and excellence. Note the name--Amy Francis is someone to watch out for.
From time to time an artist comes along that's got "it" and Amy Francis is certainly in the "it"category. All of the songs are covers and also ballads; hence the title Balladacious probably borrowed from Mr. Bojangles' Bodacious. Amy more than holds a light to those that made these evergreens famous and in some cases shines a little brighter. If you're a fan of classic country's most popular ballads, don't pass this one up it's a great CD even the originals weren't any better and some were not as good. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
But real country music still exists, hard-core, hard-edged honky-tonk by the likes of Arty Hill and the Long Gone Daddys, Eilen Jewell and a slew of Bloodshot-label artists as well as real-deal country music by keepers of the flame such as Johnny Bush, Dale Watson and Connie Smith.
South Texas native Amy Francis is in the real country number. With the aptly titled Balladacious, Francis puts her beautiful voice to work on classic country ballads such as I'm Still Not Over You, Ode to Billy Joe, Apartment No. 9 and Sweet Dreams.
Francis revisits and reclaims trails that have been covered by the dust of disuse and the brambles of misuse. Francis has powerful pipes, which she doesn't overuse, exceptional control and the sure and certain knowledge that emotion and belief drive real country music. Backed by a first-call band including guitarist/steel guitarist/producer Tommy Detamore and guitarist Kenny Penny (and her 16-year-old son Zachary on cello on a couple tracks), Francis helps put real country back in music.
The morning this CD arrived in the post I was facing a one hour drive. The cover looked great, I liked the title Balladacious, and a cursory look at the familiar titles clinched it, so out I went, knowing nothing of Amy Francis or the origins of this CD.
Well, I don’t think I could ever tire of hearing Hank Cochran’s Don’t Touch Me, but this one blew me away. Not only does Amy have a set of pipes, but the arrangement, all very Patsy Cline, with some wonderful fiddle flourishes and fantastic steel guitar, was absolutely stunning. I even liked the intake of breath at the very beginning. I was pretty sure this must have come from RCA Studio B, or been a long lost Owen Bradley set, and that was only the opening track. And as the songs continued I was more and more impressed. There are string arrangements of which Nelson Riddle would have been proud, tinkling piano straight out of 1960s Music Row, and the whole set just oozed class.
By the time I reached my destination I had heard Balladacious twice and finally got to read the credits. I’ve admired the work of Tommy Detamore for years, and he is one of my favourite steel players, but was pleasantly surprised to see his name (and Floresville, Texas studio) on the production credits. This is probably the best produced album I’ve heard this year.
Other familiar names were also present. Steve Maynard, who made one of the albums of last year, was on piano (Jerry Maynard also provides some bvs), and the fiddle that had so impressed on Don’t Touch Me was by Bobby Flores.
The songs are, as the title suggests, all ballads, some newer than others, and most likely fairly familiar to CMP readers. Tammy’s Apartment #9, Patsy Cline’s Sweet Dreams, Brenda Lee’s Fool Number One, and one of Ray Price’s finest moments, I’m Still Not Over You sit comfortably alongside Vince Gill’s When I Call Your Name and Larry Boone’s Stranger Things Have Happened. Less comfortable was Ode To Billy Joe, which apart from not being a particular favourite of mine seemed somewhat out of place amongst the lush arrangements on the rest of the album. That said though, Amy Francis sings it as well as anybody, in fact she sings all of these songs as well as anybody.
Further investigation shows that Francis has been performing professionally for 20 years, has previously made a couple of solo albums and has featured vocally on recordings by the likes of Two Tons Of Steel and Jake Owen.
Fans of the Teea Goan record from last year are going to love this, but the musicianship and production take it to a whole other level. One word – “quality”.
-Duncan Warwick, Country Music People Magazine
County Music File from the UK wrote...
I have never been a fan of cover albums not only in country but any music genre as I don’t think they do justice to the originals. However, once in a blue moon an artist comes along with an album of covers that makes me take a step back in amazement with the quality of not only sound but also the performance and does justice to the originals. One such artist is Texan Amy Francis with her latest album Balladacious.
Amy, who is a wife and mother of three children, has been involved in music all her life and was brought up on a mixture of country, bluegrass and gospel. In her early childhood years she performed in church, her parents were gospel singers, and in her teens sang professionally every weekend. She also studied music at the University of Texas Her talent and love for music inevitably lead her not only to perform as a singer in numerous venues but she also played piano and compose songs too.
Amy's latest offering is titled Balladacious. The album, which is traditional country music, covers a wide range of tracks which will undoubtedly be recognised by dedicated country fans. They include Apartment #9(Tammy Wynette’s first chart entry), Don’t Touch Me (Jeannie Seeley’s first chart hit from 1966), Picture of Me Without You (first recorded by George Jones and later Lorrie Morgan), Sweet Dreams (recorded by many artists including Faron Young, Don Gibson, Patsy Cline and Emmylou Harris).
Amy has a powerful and versatile voice capable of conveying the essence of the song’s lyrics and unquestionably does justice to the originals. Her performance combined with the excellent backing musicians, background vocals and recording make this truly an outstanding album and one that should be in your collection. Highly recommended – do yourself a favour and get this album! It is available in the UK from Smart Choice Music.
CD Baby customers wrote...
-This is a brilliant album of traditional country music as Amy's voice is perfect and with the musicianship being excellent as well. It is an album that should be in every country music fans collection. All the songs are well known and Amy's performance of them is wonderful. This is one of the best album I have heard in 2011.
-Well-known songs give a breath of fresh air, something I am not getting as I am spending so much time indoors listening to this fantastic real country album. Buy this cd you will not be disappointed, Amy has a fantastic voice and the there is a great country sound. Amy is my tip for 2012 as the great find in country music.
Amy's powerful and emotive vocal style is reminiscent of Martina McBride or Carrie Underwood, but with something of a Patsy Cline-esque sultry delivery. Top quality musicianship sets Balladacious apart from its peers, featuring Steve and Jerry Maynard, Bobby Flores and Tommy Detamore.
Pete Smith from The Advertiser (UK) wrote...
Balladacious is not a real word. I see it as a combination of ballad and delicious and that precisely describes the new Amy Francis album titled
Balladacious . This collection of classic country ballads performed by a beautiful lady who really knows how to handle them is truly delicious. For this project Amy chose ten of the most influential heart ballads and put her stamp on each and every one. The programme opens with one of my top favourites, Don’t Touch Me, originally a hit for Jeannie Seely, before effortlessly, though emotionally, moving through A Picture Of Me Without You (George Jones), Ode To Billy Joe (Bobbie Gentry), Apartment No. 9 (Johnny Paycheck) and Sweet Dreams (Patsy Cline). Gospel singing parents who encouraged the young lady’s vocal and piano talents raised Amy, a native
Texan. Over two decades Amy has worked with show, rock, jazz and
country bands. Her vocals have appeared on several albums by other
performers and her previous solo album establish her writing credentials.
Doug Lewis from the St. Thomas source with NPR wrote...
The Indie Spotlight is Balladacious from Amy Francis. Listen to Amy and close your eyes, and see if she does not sound like the reincarnation of Patsy Cline. A great new voice on the Americana scene.
Francis has such a natural talent with inflection, emotion and just
general understanding of the music combined with a clear desire to work
to make sure it comes across as heartfelt as possible, this album is
pure joy to listen to. Each track inspires just a little more feeling
than most covers can accomplish, staying true to the original while
being convincing that she understands what is behind the words.
Whether someone is expecting to reminisce on the classics or feel the beautiful tones of a new voice Amy will absolutely accomplish the need and allow them to simply get lost in the music.
-5 out of 5 stars! Her voice is reminiscent of the strong voiced female country singers of days gone by. The version of Sweet Dreams is as good as the Patsy Cline version. Other tracks, although familiar, she makes them her own. She has that sensual almost seductive quality in her voice.