Francey has spent considerable time in the U.S. since taking up music full time in 2002, and although some of his songs in American settings are similar to those from Canada (he even has one about coal boats in Ashtabula, Ohio), others are notable for their measured critique of political developments in this country over the last decade. You get the sense that he doesn't come naturally to political songs but has written some out of sheer moral necessity. He remains an outsider observing this culture: in "Highway 95," making the Eastern Seaboard trip that he shares with so many other Canadians, he finds that "words are jewels" in the mouth of a welcome center worker, but when he spots Christian skywriting, "I feel sad and I don't know why."
None of which is to say that Francey's music is unrelievedly serious. He writes songs of friendship and comfort, and he has addressed plenty of love songs to his wife, Beth, with whom he lives in a small town in eastern Ontario. His scenes of small-town life are full of details that seem to imbue human community with a special luminosity. Go to hear David Francey once, and you'll never pass ice skaters again without thinking of "the lights around the skating rink, laughing in the face of the darkness of the lonely heart of winter." Much less well known on this side of the border than in Canada, he's a rare talent.
[Originally published in February, 2012.]