Bob Frank

Pledge of Allegiance

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Keep on Burning, Bob Frank's recorded comeback as a singer/songwriter after 30 years, was a competent set of country-rock songs produced by Frank's old friend Jim Dickinson that demonstrated Frank was still capable of writing and singing good songs, even if it bore little comparison to his debut album, 1972's Bob Frank. Two years later, Pledge of Allegiance is identifiably the work of the young man who made Bob Frank, and is all the better for it. This time, Frank has stayed home and recorded alone with just his acoustic guitar and occasional harmonica to accompany his sturdy baritone. So, the emphasis is on the songs. While he contributes trucker ("Coming into Glen Rock") and cowboy (the '70s-era "Horses and Cattle") songs as he did on Keep on Burning, Frank unveils a social conscience right off the bat on the leadoff song, "Red Neck, Blue Collar," which expresses his solidarity with hard-working union people. He continues to identify with the working class in such songs as "One Big Family," its caustic chorus going "They say we're all one big family/They say we're all in the same boat/So, why does their ass ride first-class/While I'm barely staying afloat?" It's clear that his criticism of economic inequality is rooted in Christian belief, which comes out in several songs. It's also clear that, the songs on Keep on Burning notwithstanding, his ongoing interest in drink and drugs, repeatedly expressed on Bob Frank, has not disappeared. The difference largely lies in the attitude taken. On Pledge of Allegiance the word "alcoholic" appears, and, for instance in "Incident at the Laundromat," an account of an encounter with a "wino" who laments his life of substance abuse and then promptly drops dead, Frank is more interested in providing cautionary tales than in celebrating the grape. Even so, in these carefully observed, well-written songs, delivered with conviction, one hears a grown-up version of the Bob Frank of Bob Frank much more than one did on the more conventional Keep on Burning, and he is welcome back.

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