A bittersweet old style paradise gets mined in the Franklin's Mint. "Gold" is comprised of heart-tugging folk pop that take us back to ?Blood on the Tracks? era Dylan, the Band, Neil Young, The Byrds and more than a few classic British folk-rockers with its warm analog glow. Next to the Akron Family?s debut, this is the most spontaneously pleasing and baked album I?ve heard all year. That might have something to do with the fact that it's a Sunburned Hand of the Man sanctioned road-trip through the dilapidated highways and byways of rural and urban America that covers a lot of ground in its drunken crawl from coast to coast. Some of the contributors are usually glimpsed in a more improvised setting, so it?s a genuine pleasure to hear them playing these more trad numbers as penned by Phil Franklin. His dusted, stream of conscious lyrics are branded with a sense of world weariness and humanism that?s the only logical outcome for anybody living ?the good life? in America circa 2005.
Opener ?Hold This Bag for Me? makes a vivid first impression. It?s a scrappy slice of roots pop that benefits greatly from hovering Wurlitzer organ and John Moloney?s steady backbeat, beneath lyrics describing the rat race before a knockout chorus evokes a simpler time, when you could ask a stranger for help and maybe hope to be acknowledged. The title track is a jangling mid tempo country blues that begs the question, ?What are you gonna do with all the money made?when you can?t take it to your grave?? ?Last in Line? is a tear-in-your-bear ballad about the one that got away and kept on going. And then there?s ?Carousel Baby,? with a haunted vocal belted out by one Betsy Nichols, a definite standout among many. ?(The Discovery of) Mex Rice? is another gem of a love sing that glides on burly fuzz riffs and freaks out in a clattery bongo explosion before it?s finished. ?First Cigarette of the Day? is anthemic folk rock that may not be too PC, but its combination of fingerpicking and wide open chorus captures the nic fit pioneering mythos with vigor. A chorus of children?s vocals before the fade is a clever touch. ?One, Two, Many? is a hand-clapping drinking song with fem vocals. ?Another Good Deal Gone Bad? is a bombed out fuzz psych monster that kicks red dust up high, before the elemental ?Moral of a Story? offers a mellower groove that closes things out on a levitated drift of 12 string harmonics and curling feedback. It?s a haunted outro for a haunted little record.
Not every song on ?Gold? lives up to that standard. It?s maybe two songs too long, but even so they?re good tunes. There?s no filler here, just a little needless repetition, but then that?s life for you. The way Franklin dresses his songs up in rich tapestries of dusty feedback trills and traditional instrumentation, while maintaining a constant sun-baked aura, is inspired to say the least. This is stoned pop for the disenfranchised masses. It may be a hard album to find, but then so is peace of mind. The lavish, handmade package folds into a 3-D pyramid and comes in an edition of 1000. 9/10 -- Lee Jackson (28 June, 2006)