Frank Black with the Foo Fighters at the Hummingbird Centre (1 Front East), Wednesday (August 23), 8 pm. $67. 416-872-2262, 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
Frank Black speaks slowly and takes big, long pauses between thoughts, leading me to think he's finished talking.
That's when I start, whereupon he jumps back in. The result: I spend our entire interview interrupting him.
This also happened in two previous interviews. If he remembered me, and I'm certain he didn't, he'd conclude I'm the rudest person in the entire world.
Whatever. Yesterday he stood me up, missing my call twice, so I think he's rude, too, even though I pretend it doesn't bother me. To be fair, he apologizes more than once, and it's gotta be hectic having the whole family, including four kids - a six-year-old, an eight-year-old, one 20 months and another three months - on tour with you.
"It's the first time the kids have been on a bus tour," he says. "I think they're liking it a lot. There's lots of movie-watching - they're excited about that."
Black and family are on the road to promote his new and excellent solo opus, Fast Man Raider Man (Back Porch), 27 tracks on two discs that pick up the country/soul/roots rock where last year's Honeycomb left off - though to be clear, the kids are just along for the ride. There's no Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players business going on or anything.
The term "solo" is used loosely here, since, like Honeycomb, Fast Man Raider Man lists a whole whack of impressive names as musical guests, including Spooner Oldham, Chester Thompson, Cheap Trick's Tom Peterson, the Band's Levon Helm and P. F. Sloan. The number of people who jump at playing with Black is striking.
"I don't know if I can claim credit for that. Jon Tiven (producer) knows a lot of people and is well connected. He's the one who brought them all on board. Some of the guys didn't even know who I was."
Diplomatically reluctant to say he was excited to work with anyone in particular, Black singles out Steve Cropper.
"The first rock 'n' roll song I ever sang in front of an audience was a Steve Cropper song. So that was a nice coincidence."
The tracks were collected over two years, starting with leftovers that apparently rocked too hard for Honeycomb. Kiss My Ring and Highway To Lowdown fit nicely on Fast Man Raider Man, which explores a range of dynamics and genres on shortish tracks alternating between harsh grit and soulful introspection. The Americanized cover of Dirty Ol' Town, with Marty Brown, is a standout.
In places, the album reminds me of Van Morrison, and I wonder whether Black anticipated the comparison.
"It's never conscious, but it's inevitable. I'm chameleon-like. It's not that I don't have my own voice, but I can get caught up in mirroring other singers, if only in a small way."
Everyone does that, I think, but people rarely admit it.
"Yeah," Black agrees, "and it's fun to try to sing like Bob Dylan or Mick Jagger. You don't want to do an impersonation, but it's cool to discover new tonal things you can do with your voice, and the act of doing it causes some character to emerge."
What with all the solo records and the recent Pixies reunion, Black must be oh so busy, but he says no.
"There's plenty of downtime."
The reunion has been good, though, since, as Black points out, even at their peak the Pixies never had a hit song.
"Critics liked us and people always thought we were going to become a much bigger band than we ever did. We considered ourselves an underground band; even at our most popular we were always struggling with the powers that be, the radio, the charts, MTV. So the reunion's been nice cuz we're doing a lot better financially than we ever did."
The Pixies are getting their due?
"It's show biz. You get what you get."
There may even be a new Pixies record in the works. And I read somewhere that Black has dreams of starting a punk rock power trio.
"Oh! Well, have you heard about my reggae record and my 50s record? I've got all kinds of plans. It's just figuring out when I'm going to pull it off."