Hailing from Galax in smalltown Virginia, the Appalachian home of the annual Old Fiddler's Convention, Freeman was discovered when the 24-year-old contacted Teddy Thompson on Facebook and he agreed to produce this, her debut album on which she's backed by such names as jazz pianist Erik Deutsch, Jon Graboff from The Cardinals on guitar and fiddler Alex Hargreaves.
Raised on the music of such names as Doc Watson and The Louvin Brothers, and citing Rufus Wainwright as a key inspiration (and the route to Thompson), Freeman has one of those pure Appalachian voices that sounds like someone bottled pine trees, fresh cotton, morning mountain mist and babbling streams and, in a torrent of glowing American reviews, has been spoken of in the same breath as Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn. I wouldn't be so rash as to put her in the same category yet (though the piano accompanied 'Lullaby' certainly evokes the former) , but there's most certainly electrifying promise in evidence here, both in her singing and her songs.
She spreads the love around several styles, 'Go On Lovin'' being archetypal honky tonk waltzing Nashville with weeping pedal steel, 'Tell Me' (where, as one several occasions, she reminds me of Zooey Deschanel) is bubbling pop with chugging guitar and sweeping and pizzicato strings, 'Fine Fine Fine' nods to 60s Spector soul and 'Where I Stood' is slow waltzing old tyme country with Thompson on harmonies while, in complete contrast, 'Ain't Nobody' features just her voice and snapping fingers on a chain gang gospel that shares its musical shackles with 'Sixteen Tons'.
If there's a reservation it would be that, sounding as fresh-faced as she looks, sometimes there isn't quite the depth and resonance in the voice to match the ache in the lyrics. That's not the case, however, with 'Song For Paul', a high lonesome backwoods heartbreaker (again with Thompson on harmonies) sung to just a strummed acoustic guitar or the equally lovely piano slow march waltzing closer 'Still A Child' where she sings about her lover's emotional immaturity with a mix of yearning tenderness and weary resignation, a song surely destined to find its way on to many a female country act's album in the years to come, even if Freeman herself says she has no interest in uprooting from Galax for Nashville. Dazzling debut albums can be a springboard to a long future or an all too brief blaze of glory and the true test will be in the follow up, but for now, this seems deservedly destined to be on many a Best of List come December.
|Jez Hellard & The Djukella Orchestra: Heavy Wood||Blue Rose Code: And Lo! The Bird Is On The Wing|
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