There was something about Francis Dunnery that didn’t scream ‘musician’ during his first visit to Philadelphia in 1993.
The tall, strapping Brit had long blonde hair, ripped jeans and a confident smile that had the look of someone in search of a stage. But there was something more to Dunnery. It was evident when he extended his massive and meaty right hand that looked more like a linebacker’s paw than an extremity, which strummed a guitar.
During a chat at a Four Seasons hotel suite in 1993, Dunnery, 47, asked more questions than offered answers. It was obvious that he is a complex character.
Not much has changed in that respect. Dunnery, who will perform Saturday at the Tin Angel, is a musician but he is a restless, deep thinker, who needs more than music.
Dunnery is also a horse trainer and an astrologer.
“I just couldn’t do one thing,” Dunnery said. “I need more than one outlet.”
What makes Dunnery different than many of his peers is that he has never had a need to be a rock star. Dunnery has had some success. The catchy ‘American Life in the Summertime’ charted in 1994. He became a cult attraction, particularly in Philadelphia, thanks to the support of WXPN.
“I’ll always be indebted to XPN,” Dunnery said. “It’s always good to go back to Philadelphia. The people there have been so supportive over the years.”
Dunnery is treated like a rock star whenever he returns to the Tin Angel. However, the affable singer-songwriter, is just as happy as a sideman.
That’s not an exaggeration. Dunnery has enjoyed touring with Robert Plant and working on such acclaimed albums as the disc, which established Lauren Hill as a solo star, ‘The Miseducation of Lauren Hill’ and Santana’s comeback release, ‘Supernatural.’
“I’ve been fortunate enough to play with such exceptional musicians,” Dunnery said. “That’s what you hope for as a musician. It doesn’t always have to be about me. I enjoy working with others.”
It’s not just lip service for Dunnery, who established a charity in the name of his parents in his English hometown of Egremont.
Dunnery is a refreshingly unpredictable figure. Just three years after his commercial peak, Dunnery left the music industry in 1998 to move to Vermont and devote his time to training horses. He went to earn a masters degree in psychology.
He’s an atypical, offbeat musician, who at times appears to come straight out of pulp fiction.
Dunnery is a true eccentric, who invented the tapboard, a guitar-like instrument with an egg timer.
His idiosyncratic manner is interesting but that’s not going to attract a crowd each time he comes to town. His provocative songs and his ability to connect with an audience, however, will do the trick.
“I’ve always loved music,” Dunnery said. “Even when I was doing something else. I’ve always had the passion for music even when the songs weren’t coming to me. It’s a part of me.