by Dustin Jussila
You may have heard that blues or jazz is a sophisticated music for an intelligent, more refined audience. While that may be true, what you probably don’t know is that modern pop music credits a lot of its origins to the blues. Whether it’s hip-hop, classic rock, or pop music, the songs we hear today have a lot to thank those pioneers. Ottawa’s Angelique Francis carries on that legacy, by putting her own original spin on classic blues music.
Only 22 years old, Francis has already built an extensive career for herself. While she has been surrounded by music all her life, her big break took place nearly a decade ago when she debuted on Oprah’s OWN network after supplying the winning theme for the Gayle King Show. Some have called her a child prodigy. Francis says she, “is happy for the compliments”, however she notes that she grew up in the music industry and reasons that is why she is so comfortable on stage. Her father, who accompanies Francis as drummer, ran a recording studio in their home and so she grew up surrounded by an assortment of blues, jazz, and roots music.
For her debut in Edmonton at the Yardbird Suite, she is accompanied by a small band, including David Aide playing the electric organ, and saxophonist Dave Babcock, while Francis juggles between the upright bass, harmonica, and acoustic guitar. Francis’s father, and the rest of this band, are very talented separately and there is no doubt of their confidence as musicians. However, there is no doubt that they allow Angelique Francis to shine brightly.
On stage, Francis has a mixture of classic tunes and original pieces. Some of them are timeless, and her rich voice keeps it innovative and exciting. There are moments when Francis encourages her audience to dance and sing, and with her unique energy it is hard to say no. However, where her performance really shines is when Francis is singing her own original compositions. Her vocal range is more confident, and her unique voice stands out compared to when she is covering other songs. Her singles “Should Have Known” and “24 Hours” are beautiful love letters to the blues.
Travelling around North America and Europe (including headlining the Transylvanian Blues Festival in Romania), and with plans to tour in Germany in the spring, Francis believes it is important for people around the world to recognize the contribution of blues and jazz, and “without these genres, music wouldn’t be like how it is today.”
Angelique Francis is staying one more day in Edmonton at the Yardbird Suite (86 Ave., Gateway Blvd.) 8 p.m. tonight. Tickets are $26 and $30, from Tix on the Square (780-420-1757 or tixonthesquare.ca) or at the door.
Banner photography courtesy of Dustin Jussila