Elsie Franklin Offers a Mix of Bluesy, Vintage-Sounding Originals and Classic Covers on Sophomore Album ‘Miss Rhythm’
They say the apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree, and that is certainly the case with acoustic folk and blues singer-songwriter-guitarist Elsie Franklin. Her father is the revered English blues and jazz guitarist/mandolinist Adam Franklin, who has made a name for himself over the past two decades-plus around Europe and the U.S. performing a colorful mix of famous and obscure vintage tunes, solid originals that sound like vintage tunes, and putting out nine albums since 2005. He is also a renowned teacher. So daughter Elsie, still only in her mid-20s, caught the blues bug from dad, learned a ton from him and his record collection, and has been busking on the streets (she currently resides in York, England) and playing in clubs and elsewhere since her teens.
Miss Rhythm is her second solo album—Borrowed Tunes Vol. 1 consisted of cover tunes by influences such as of Memphis Minnie, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and Gillian Welch—and she also put out an album with her father called Franklin and Franklin Live! Like her father, Elsie specializes in fingerpicked and slide resonator guitar—on Miss Rhythm she exclusively plays a great-sounding 14-fret National NRP.
This time out, just half of the 12 songs are covers, including a pair by Memphis Minnie, Blind Willie Johnson’s eerie “Nobody’s Fault But Mine,” and in a folky change of pace, the late Steve James’ lovely “Farewell the Roses.” “Steve was a good friend of mine,” Franklin told me recently. “I’ve known him since I was a kid, as my dad organized some guitar workshops for him and Del Rey many years ago. Steve and I used to meet up on Zoom and he would teach me some songs, help me with arrangements, and tell me stories. He was a great influence on the album.” (For more on Steve James, see the cover story of the May/June 2023 issue of AG.)
The other six songs on Miss Rhythm are originals, though if you didn’t see the writing credits, you could easily be fooled into thinking that they were pulled off scratchy 78s from the ’20s or ’30s. That cuts two ways: It’s great that she has internalized her influences as well as she has, but it would also be cool if she would also stray from the path and go to some new places with her originals, like Gillian Welch does, for instance. Franklin is a total natural as a singer—her voice powerful, emotive and nuanced—and her playing throughout is crisp and confident, but never showy. It will be very interesting to watch this young talent with an old soul as she develops even more as a writer and player in the coming years. Neither of these posted videos capture the assurance of the performances on the album, which is available through https://www.elsiefranklin.com.
This article originally appeared in the May/June 2023 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.