Growing Old With Rock and Roll

Growing Old With Rock and Roll

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Grace Freeman - Shadow (2017)

Written by Jason Hillenburg, posted by blog admin

Grace Freeman is an artist who immediately impresses as a talent with confidence and a skill set far beyond her nineteen years. One shouldn’t lightly throw terms like “prodigy” around, but it’s apparent upon encountering Grace Freeman’s music that you’re contending and being entertained by a truly special voice – both as a singer and songwriter. She exercises command and care over the material on her solo debut Shadow that outstrips what we’ve heard from her peers and touches on avowed influences like Joni Mitchell, Regina Spektor, The Cure, and The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson, among others, while retaining an instantly identifiable musical, lyrical, and vocal identity. The eleven songs included on the release are reflective, as well, of the exponential growth in her talent since she first began writing songs at age ten and performing at open mics by age thirteen. She’s learned her artistic lessons so far and the future seems boundless based on this offering.

“Oliver” is a muted and deeply meditative opener. The production multi-tracks Freeman’s voice at select points and it accentuates the natural ethereal lilt in her voice without ever risking self-indulgence. The guitar work is understated and weaves throughout its duration with eloquent fluency. Freeman’s title song is built around piano instead of acoustic guitar and the arrangement is nearly as spartan. Bringing drumming into the song imbues it with a much more dramatic quality and it’s further testimony to the depths of her talent that, at even such a young age, she’s able to bring this sort of feel off without succumbing to the purple, overwrought hand of youth. The near shuffle jaunt of “Trying to Say Goodbye” tempers its melancholy sentiments in a significant and artful way and there’s a lightly playful quality in her vocal that never undercuts the seriousness of the song. She comes across with such cool confidence, wearing each song like a loose garment, and the emotive connection she establishes with each track makes it a more memorable listening experience.

Her voice has a smokier feel on the song “Another Long Night” and the bluesy jangle of acoustic guitar amps it up at key points. This is more rugged than many other tracks on Shadow, but it doesn’t sound at all out of place juxtaposed against the other songs. “Autumn” has the browning elegance of fall coloring its sparse musical texture and makes some important embellishments along the way that set it apart from other tracks on Shadow. It’s certainly one of the album’s best songs. There’s some unusual instrumentation on the delightfully underhanded and snide “God Forbid”, including woodwind, and Freeman sinks her interpretative teeth deep into the song and owns it with on point phrasing. There’s a refreshing amount of variety on Shadow that suggests Grace Freeman is a songwriter with rarely any shortage of ideas. It’s equally clear that she has the facility for expressing them and the top notch collaborators who aid her in that pursuit are obviously sympathetic to the quality of her voice and material. Grace Freeman’s emergence as a major new talent continues; you are advised to stay tuned from this point forward.

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