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  • Jonathan Widran

DEREK FRANK, Origin Story

Lawd, the amazing fun facts we learn when a cat like veteran touring bassist Derek Frank immerses our ears, hearts and souls in the kind of freewheeling funky instrumental shenanigans he, his kick-ass handpicked quintet and special guests like The Fat City Horns throw down on his third, and presumably most personal album, Origin Story.


Though Frank is truly a citizen of the world by virtue of his global touring with Gwen Stefani, Shania Twain, Shakira, Air Supply and others, putting the soul-jazzy, slow simmering seduction like “Theme From Steel City” (which cleverly borrows riffs from Blood, Sweat & Tears’ “Spinning Wheel”) at the heart of the recording is his way of sharing an enduring fondness for his hometown of Pittsburgh.


So what’s the fun fact for those of us who hail from elsewhere? That Pittsburgh has been named by rent.com as one of the best cities for musicians to live in America – a declaration attested to locally in a 2023 article in the Pittsburgh City Paper titled “Pittsburgh Secretly Has One of the Best Music Scenes in the Country.”


Another dynamic spotlight on the city by Frank and Co. is the jangling, bluesy, mystical and high octane romp “The Yinzer” (a slang term for Pittsburgh natives, originally those with thick accents), which features a fiery Karl Denson sax solo and a fiery electric guitar solo by Frank’s longtime Shania bandmate Joshua Ray Gooch. On other feisty, punchy and sizzling, blues fired delights like “Demon On Wheels,” “Culdesac” and “Paperboy Blues,” we gleefully greet fanciful tastes of Frank’s equal passion for the 70’s film and TV soundtrack music he grew up with (Dirty Harry, Wonder Woman, The Incredible Hulk, et al).


Not sure where the Bee Gees fall into this fast and furious mix of influences, but Frank brings their mid-70’s classic “Jive Talkin’” to funkier, bluesier heights (compe with synth filtered vocals) to create a fun, familiar Oasis among the wild chaos elsewhere. The band’s blistering barnburner run through Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “I Know A Little” may have nothing to do with Pittsburgh or film/TV, but it’s another perfect display of the the band’s sense of wild abandon and somehow makes the perfect closer.  

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