“Snowflakes on My Eyelashes” is a memorable way to begin Francine Honey’s third album To Be Continued… and lives up to its early promise. The Ontario based singer/songwriter proves first song in that her art exists in a place far removed from the concerns of mainstream country radio. This is material with a distinctly Americana slant, despite her Canadian origins, and benefits from being informed by a level of literary distinction we don’t often hear with similar performers.
Similar writing with a long view of human experience, perhaps not as overtly poetic, comes to the fore with the album’s title track. Honey’s lyrical acumen is such that she’s able to reframe a semi-traditional theme in modern popular song, an older artist gazing back at the dreams and promise at youth, and color it in new and highly individual ways. The production emphasizes the instrumental detail, but the arrangement has a spartan design that underlines emotional impact instead of virtuosity.
The thumping honky tonk of “Shacked-Up Sweetie” definitely provides To Be Continued…with its strongest commercial moment yet. The earlier songs certainly possess the potential to reach wide audiences, but the single “Shacked-Up Sweetie” manages to combine a modern sound with rough and ready traditionalist country without straining for effect. Honey’s voice holds everything to together with a zesty performance that, nevertheless, never lapses into histrionic self indulgence. Instead, she is personable, full of life, and leans into the song’s phrasing with the canny instincts of a veteran vocalist. The song’s video, likewise, teems with life and will strike listeners as familiar, yet distinctly Honey’s own.
“Space” is another peak moment during To Be Continued… thanks to its deeply affecting chorus and the obvious care Honey takes with unveiling its lyric. The phrasing reaches its finest moments during the aforementioned chorus thanks to her willingness to invest every part of herself in giving shape and form to its emotional tone; she’s relating an experience many adults, particularly those coming out of serious relationships, feel in the wake of their failure. “Mamas Take Bad Dreams Away”, in the hands of a lesser artist, might come off sounding hopelessly sentimental and hackneyed, but Honey avoids that trap by relying on details and drawing listeners a picture rather than milking already bone-dry clichés. The drumming, one of the album’s underrated merits, carries the day here in a low-key fashion.
Another fine example of her songwriting talents comes with the track “Marilyn”. It’s another entry in a long tradition of songs eulogizing the long dead Marilyn Monroe, but the song is much more about the speaker than its nominal subject. Honey’s voice reaches some especially potent heights with the chorus before lapsing back into breathy atmospherics during the song’s chorus. It might sound like a cliché itself, but there’s something for everyone on To Be Continued… and the overall excellence of the material marks this as Francine Honey’s most impressive effort yet. The Ontario bred singer/songwriter moves in rarefied air with this new album and there’s no sign she can’t climb even higher.
On CD BABY: https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/francinehoney3
-review by Scottie Carlito