Freebo – If Not Now When

Album Review | Poppabo Music |Review by Marc Higgins

I first heard the strikingly titled Freebo on a release by Alice Howe. The colourful and rich finger-picked guitar that runs through this album connects him and Alice. His background in 70s big league Bass playing, means the material has a bounce, spring and litheness not guaranteed in acoustic singer songwriter land. This set of old and new songs is often music you could shake a leg to. While underpinned by his fine guitar, Freebo’s considerable experience, including ten years with Bonnie Raitt, means his musical net is cast wide and he has a considerable range of friends to draw on, Albert Lee, Jerry Marotta and Skip Edwards lend a hand on this always interesting album.

“I Aint Running No More” is a strident, classic folk song, great guitar, an earworm uplifting chorus and some warm organ wafts. “Standing Ovation” adds some surprising brass to Freebo’s warm vocal and strummed guitar. Musically this is another rich and surprising track. “Funk Up The Folk” is a collision of musics, a mash up of Greenwich Village singer songwriter and some surprisingly dirty funk part Frank Zappa part James Brown. The lyrics are a wonderful tongue in cheek call, full of musical references, for the peoples acoustic music to be funked up. Whatever the intention, the music produced while slightly Flight of the Conchords tongue in cheek, is surprisingly good, an indication of Freebo’s chops. In fact a number of Freebo’s songs like the fine Eric Bibb like, “Sometimes It’s For Nothin” crackle with a energetic blues gospel funk. Freebo’s bend into a barber shop gospel of that James Brown vamp refrain has to be heard. “To The Light”, with its “Midnight Cowboy” harmonica and another hummable chorus is an upbeat song and a call for harmony. “That’s What Love is” and “A God Of My Own Choosing”, are well written stripped back gospel folk songs, Freebo has a real skill when it comes to songwriting and making words flow. “She Loves My Dog More Than Me” is a humorous Country song, imagine Dr Hook with a bit of Blues bounce and those fine brass trills again. “If Not Now When” takes that same Blues punch and delivers a song about having dreams and finally following them. “She’s My Personal GPS” and “In The Afternoon Heat” offer wry blues with some lovely dirty lead guitar. “When There’s No Place Like Home” is a no gentle but sincere explore of “Can’t Make It Here Anymore or “Born In The USA”. Quietly affecting, amusing, sometimes captivating and always interesting