Frank Black and the Catholics – Devil’s Workshop – Review

Frank Black and the Catholics

Devil’s Workshop (SpinArt)
by Jamie Kiffel

Always face-forward, singable, easily listenable, slightly skewed and Mid-Westernized, Frank Black is reliable. It’s amazing and admirable to me that Black put out two full recordings, Black Letter Days and Devil’s Workshop, at the same time. Also notably, they were produced entirely on the band’s mobile recording studio. This is bona fide road music, and it’s filled with words and sounds from the open highways of the world and the open hearts of the road. If you’re a Frank Black fan, you need both albums, each of which moves confidently and strongly through poetic tracks about working, losing, the long road, and the cold winter. With eleven tracks, Devil’s Workshop is the more punchy-poppy album; Black Letter Days sports a garrulous 18 tracks, all strong and thoughtful, but a headful to digest at once. Again, fans will be thrilled. The converse, of course, is that if you’re not in love with Black’s nasal tenor or the fact that he camps in midrange and stays there, that’s 29 tracks of twang you’ll want to avoid. Regardless, this is good music, dynamic and well-crafted with Black’s “live to two track” recording method that produces a very personal, right-in-your-living-room sound. No question, it ranges from mild and meandering to weird and bent, but it’s decent fun from all angles.