Singer/songwriter Stewart Francke’s Heartless World album leads off with “Summer Soldier,” a track that would be almost too painful to listen to if it weren’t such a great-sounding song. Francke fashioned the lyrics, written from the perspective of a soldier serving in Afghanistan, using thoughts expressed in interviews with servicemen (“Back home it’s springtime”… “I don’t regret it, but I miss my boys” … “We dream at night, but never sleep”). But the guitar-based arrangement is strong and soulful, with a rockin’ bridge and call-and-response vocals between Francke and Bruce Springsteen. It sets the tone for an album where the themes are emotional, heavy—expressed pointedly in the song “Heart of a Heartless World”—but the music is bright and upbeat. Francke, who wrote and co-produced all of the songs on the album, has a real appreciation for classic rock ’n’ soul; his first gig was actually at 19, playing bass with Chuck Berry! Today, his music is thoughtful, well-crafted and always enjoyable.
Producers: Stewart Francke and Bryan Reilly. Recording engineers: Reilly, Jim Kissling, Alan Tishik. Mixers: Miko Mader, Mark Pastoria, Kissling. Studios: RMS (Birmingham, Mich.), Harmonie Park (Detroit), Tempermill (Ferndale, Mich.), Upper Room (Huntington Woods, Mich.). Mastering: Adrian Carr/AC Mastering (Champlain, N.Y.).