In the reverberating wake of a piano’s subtle cries, a dirty electric guitar penetrates a patient rhythm with blues grit. The two duel over a muted groove that is kept alive by a swaying drumbeat, and Francine Honey starts to sing in her signature vocal. Her words sound tortured, full of grief and reflection, but there’s something in her voice that tells us everything is going to be okay. Honey unravels a life lesson in the form of a melodic poem in her new single “Stay,” and if the neo-noir music video for the song doesn’t convince you that its composer is ready for the bright lights of the primetime stage, its elegant harmony and smooth centerpiece hook definitely will.
Americana has been all the rage in 2019, and you could make the argument that a song like “Stay” has the right bones to satisfy fans of both the growing movement as well as those still in love with the contemporary Nashville sound, but I wouldn’t go as far as to dismiss this single as a product of today’s country music subculture. There’s too much heart, too much endearingly uncaged passion in this performance, for that to be anywhere near the case. Honey’s swaggering serenade is an excerpt out of early vocal pop, while her entrancing backing band flirts with tones that are more akin to folk, jazz and blues than they are the mainstream country model. Is it experimental? Sure, but not to such an extent that it drifts into negative indulgences.
To Be Continued… is a stellar record, and this single and music video are its crown jewel. I’ve been keeping up with Francine Honey since Re-Drawn, and I’m sure that I’m not the only fan who has noted the enormity of her development as a songwriter in the last five years. She’s brooding but mature in “Stay;” not only does she show off her lack of inhibitions at lead vocal, but she pushes her voice as far as she ever has in a successful attempt at drawing all of the colorful tones out of a melody that she can. Put simply, this is some mighty material from a proven underground treasure.