Over three albums, the first released when he was still a teenager, Robert Francis has proven a special, though slightly incrutable, talent among folk singers. His mellifluous vocals, knack for unpredictable arrangements and exacting lyrics have made those albums true long-players rather than singles machines, although “Junebug,” off 2009′s “Before Nightfall,” did well in Europe. [We long ago stopped trying to figure out why Robert Francis can draw a bigger crowd in France than he can in his Los Angeles hometown.] He has a poet’s worldview, which doesn’t always synch with the demands of being a musician and a frontman, and in 2012, while touring in support of “Strangers in the First Place,” Francis retreated and nearly quit music. Sidetracked by drugs and alcohol, he shaved his head and moved to Michigan before the creative juices started flowing again. “I had to lose myself in order to rediscover who I was in the beginning,” he says. Eventually gathering up his new songs and then a backing band (the Night Tide), Francis made his fourth album “Heaven” (due June 3 on Aeronaut Records). The first single “Love Is Just a Chemical” ranks among his most straight-ahead songs; it’s also a gentle reminder that when choosing chemicals, love is not a bad place to start.
||| Stream: “Love Is a Chemical”
||| Live: Robert Francis & the Night Tide play July 17 at the Troubadour.