“Fast Man, Raider Man”

Fast Man, Raider Man

Michael Hogan

“Fast Man, Raider Man” is Frank Black’s latest album and it’s been on constant rotation in my Ipod since it came out in June. Black, the front man of Boston alternative giants The Pixies, known then as Black Francis, released this, his 6th solo album, “Fast Man, Raider Man”, which may be his best. Black is backed up by some of the best in the music business: Bobby Bare Jr., a member of The Catholics, Black’s band in the years after his work with The Pixies, Tom Peterson of Cheap Trick, Levon Helm of The Band, and other musicians assist on this album. Black works his cool magic and his lyrical and musical genius are in full form on this album from beginning to end. Twenty-seven songs make up this two disc set, all of which are sure to be future classics.

Running the gamut of musical sounds, the album doesn’t fit easily into any one genre. There is the jazzy sound of “If Your Poison Gets You” and the smooth rock of “Kiss My Ring”, and a great variety of sounds in between. Two must-hears are “Dirty Old Town”, Black’s strangely soulful country sounding rendition of the Ewan MacColl penned British folk classic, and “Johnny Barleycorn”, Black’s own take on a subject that has weaved it’s way through British folk music for centuries. The album includes many references to Black’s days as a student at University of Massachusetts Amherst. He mentions Massachusetts, Boston, and the Ratskellar (a bare bones rock club that once made it’s home in Kenmore Square and hosted the likes of The Cars, The Dead Kennedys, The Ramones, The Talking Heads, Mission of Burma, and countless other rock and punk superstars). There are also soulful ballads like “Golden Shore”, “Sad Old World”, and “Don’t Cry That Way” for those long contemplative nights. “In the Time of My Ruin” and “You Can’t Crucify Yourself” get confessional, deep and meaningful. Organs, saxophones, steel pedal guitars, country rock, and big band sound are all found on this album and all in great form.

The dual title songs are opposites of each other. “Fast Man”, an expressive traveling song, is slow and smooth, while “Raider Man”, the story of a coal miner, is more of a rock song. Everything on the album is done with a smoothness that makes it feel as if you’re in the room with Black himself, sitting in some small local bar with a beer as he sits on the stage with his acoustic guitar spilling his soul with each new song. The driving guitar licks of “Fare Thee Well” end the album perfectly, the ideal end to the musical journey that is “Fast Man, Raider Man”.