Nashville Number System

Frank Black’s next two albums after Show Me Your Tears were released without the Catholics, but with Nashville session musicians.

I already did a song-by-song review of Honeycomb, and I only have a few additional comments.

  • I have since written a post on selkies and other animal-women.
  • I don’t think there’s any saint (well, at least not any Catholic saint) specifically dedicated to inanimate objects, although I know Anthony of Padua is the saint of LOST objects. He’s everywhere in my neighborhood, probably third only to Jesus and Mary as far as religious figures represented in statuary.

  • I like “Strange Goodbye” more than I did back then, and I’ve come to greater appreciate the catchiness of “Atom in My Heart” and the sadness of “Sing for Joy” (despite its misleading title). I understand that the latter was largely drawn from Frank’s own life.
  • There’s apparently some extra symbolism to “Violet,” as the violet actually did represent fertility, and one reason Frank left his first wife was that she didn’t want to have kids.


The next one was a double album, Fast Man Raider Man. I distinctly remember buying this one on the same day I did some tests for a temp agency, received my New Jersey license plates, and got a flat tire. I reviewed this one as well, but didn’t include every song. I’m going to skip over the ones I already wrote about there, unless I can think of something new to say about them. My general impression is that it’s quiet and dark, rarely venturing into the rock sound for which Frank is better known. Between that and its length, it isn’t one I listen to all that much, but that’s not to say it isn’t worth hearing.

If Your Poison Gets You – This sets the tone for the album; it’s mostly pretty mellow, but catchy. I appreciate the part where the guitar and saxophone kind of trade off.

Fast Man – I seem to recall someone mocking the line, “I shook my head, no no no, no no no,” and it IS a little weak. It’s not a bad song, though. It’s another traveling song, a popular subject for Frank.

You Can’t Crucify Yourself – I think the main draw to this one is the title, which is also the first line of the chorus. I also like the breathy vocals and the piano part.

Dirty Old Town – A cover of a Pogues song, which was originally very Irish-sounding.

Frank’s version is more of an American blues take, performed as a duet with Marty Brown, who has a pretty enthusiastic country voice. On the last voice, they’re both pretty much yelling the lyrics.

Wanderlust – This remains one of my favorites. The music is a lot of fun.

Seven Days – This is a very popular title. In my own music library, I have songs by Cracker and the Fastbacks with the same name, but this isn’t much like either of those. The lyrics here remind me of Frank’s version of “Constant Sorrow Man.”

Raider Man – A folk song about a coal miner who was laid off but rehired to work security, and who lost his legs doing so. Very traditional in style, but still distinctly Frank.

The End of the Summer – The tune for this one comes from Gabriel Fauré’s classical piece, “La Sicilienne.”

I remember Frank considering “The Sicilian” as a title for the album that would eventually become this one. It features a sad, somewhat desperate vocal from Frank.

Dog Sleep – Is there any connection between this and the line “Are you dog tired?” from “Atom in My Heart”? This one is very jazzy, with a good horn part.

When the Paint Grows Darker Still – This sad song bears some resemblance to the old hymn “When the Saints Go Marchin’ In,” although it’s much darker in tone. The title sort of rhymes, and some versions of the hymn begin with the lines, “I am just a weary pilgrim, travelin’ through this world of sin.” Compare that with Frank’s opening lines, “I am just a weary singer/Moving through this world of ills.”

Golden Shore – In addition to what I’ve already said about this one, I’ve noticed that it has a lot of allusions to other musicians and songs. For instance, “The Dark Before the Dawn” is an old standard, Whistling in the Wind is a Leon Redbone album, and “Heaven’s door” might be a reference to the Bob Dylan song.

In the Time of My Ruin – This song starts out good, but kind of degenerates toward the end. I still love the semi-rhymes, though.

Down to You – This is a little more upbeat musically, but still sad musically.

Highway to Lowdown – There’s an interesting arrangement here, starting out slow and sparse, then becoming a little more complex, and returning to the sparseness for the last verse.

Kiss My Ring – I haven’t seen Frank actually discuss this one, but on its face it appears to be a somewhat sympathetic take on the position of Pope. There aren’t really enough lyrics for it to go much of anywhere, though.

My Terrible Ways – Based on a true story about a criminal who was forgiven after saving three people during Hurricane Katrina, and also losing his wife and child in the same storm.

Fitzgerald – Assuming the lyrics are accurate, it’s a pretty straightforward and interesting story about an amateur artist who used to drink at Frank’s dad’s bar, paying for drinks with sketches that were hung on the wall. He was apparently quite popular, but smelled really bad. It’s a nice tribute to someone who was likely an outcast from society.

Elijah – It’s not clear who Elijah actually is, although from the lyrics it sounds like he was a childhood friend of Frank’s from when he lived in Massachusetts. “Little Willy” was a hit for the Sweet in the early 1970s.

It’s Just Not Your Moment – Frank has said that the line about Darin at the Troubadour is a reference to how his father used to manage the restaurant next door to the West Hollywood club of that name, and he was transfixed by seeing Bobby Darin when stopping by, even though he wasn’t even a particular fan.

The Real El Rey – I can’t think of much to say about this one, which seems to mostly be about wanting to achieve fame as a musician. I’m mostly struck by how the title literally translates to “The Real The King,” but I’m sure there’s a reason for that.

Where the Wind Is Going – I like this one. It has a cool guitar part and an urgent sound to the vocals. It seems to be yet another song about always being on the move, with some evocative lyrics. It has kind of an abrupt ending, however.

Holland Town – I get the impression this is about a particular musician, as its lyrics are pretty specific, but I don’t know enough to guess as to the subject.

Fare Thee Well/Sad Man’s Song – I’ve already written about this one, but I would like to add that there were some rumors it was about Kim Deal, with the line “Moves her body like a cannonball” referencing the Breeders’ hit “Cannonball.” Since it wasn’t written by Frank, I find that doubtful. It’s possible that the particular word influenced him in that respect, since this is around when the Pixies got back together, but it’s the kind of song Frank would likely have been drawn to anyway.

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One Response to Nashville Number System

  1. Pingback: I’ll Bossanova with Ya | VoVatia

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