03 Apr. 2012

L.A. Examiner – “Confident, Worthy”

…as Freeman’s delivery demonstrates…How could any man not fall in love with a lady that gives it this much effort?  One wonders what she is really capable of in person. It seems Freeman who is one of the headline acts for the Real Blues Festival of Orange County 3 on Sunday, August 26 will continue to sing “You’ll Fall In Love With Me” to audiences until “Everyone Can See” that they just might not have much choice in the matter.

Tricia Freeman has a sound that blends the classic with the contemporary. Her new release, Everyone Can See, is garnering some good reviews. But who exactly is Freeman?

Tricia Freeman is a Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter who was raised in Texas. Her earliest memories include being exposed to music as a young child. She remembers her mother favoring blues and jazz music. She would regularly hear the music of such artists as Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, and Dinah Washington.

Her father had no favorites. He enjoyed a variety of music from Latin to classical. As she grew older, Freeman herself found herself developing a love of “the local country/bluegrass sound mixed with a rockin’ blues flavor that was prevalent in (her) college town of Lawrence, Kansas.”

At the age of 19 she left Kansas behind and moved to California, “bought a guitar and a ‘how to’ chord book.” Soon she was performing at saloons regaling the locals with country and blues tunes. She would also score a gig in a stage production of Godspell and eventually found herself playing at a multitude of various venues from nearby taverns to major festivals up and down the west coast.

In fact, Freeman later went international, touring Europe several times playing a mix of cover versions and her own original material. She also has worked in the studio as well. She has been employed by such film studios as Disney, Time Warner and Indigo Films. Additional show biz credits include an appearance on the TV show Your Big Break where she tipped her hat to the late, great Janis Joplin.

She has been a regular back-up singer for former Canned Heat guitarist Walter Trout and worked with producer Jim Gaines (Santana). She has also shared the stage with an assortment of other artists such as Spencer Davis, The Little River Band, Olivia Newton John, Missing Persons, Eric Burdon and The Animals, Eddie Money and in 2007 opened for Al Green and John Fogarty at the Doheny Blues Festival in Dana Point, California.

Her new twelve-track disc, Everyone Can See, is a blend of some of the genres influential to her career. Freeman handles all lead vocals supported by a backing band including: K.K. Martin (acoustic, electric and slide guitar, mandolin, pedal steel and background vocals), Kerry Chester (keyboards and background vocals), Chris Whynaught (saxophone, clarinet and background vocals), Kerry Chester (clavinet and Hammond organ), Richard Bredice (mom’s ukulele, electric tremelo/acoustic/rhythm guitar, strum stick, Hammond organ, piano and percussion), Babba Elefante (all bass guitars), Daniel Blank (fiddle) and Frank Cotinola (drums).

The lead-in is “Thought You Was The One”. This one is a mix of blues and Bonnie Raitt. It’s amply highlighted by Martin’s slide work to boot.

The second selection is “Blind Man Wandering”. This is a good example of Freeman’s ability to deliver a ballad. It comes off as sincere and features a worthy baritone guitar solo by Bredice.

“Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean” is a cover of a song written by Johnny Wallace and Herbert J. Lance. While a few critics note that this might be the weak link in the musical chain, one needn’t look too much further than the cover of the CD to know that this kind of cut would appear here. Freeman has some old school influences and is known for doing covers and original pieces so the inclusion of this song should come as no surprise to anyone who has done their homework.

Yes, we’ve all heard this before and the idea behind the tune was old when Dolly Parton was learning about country. Yes, at a time when women have equal rights this is at best a blast from the past. On the other hand, women may want a man’s job but they still want the guy to pick up the check so maybe it’s no surprise that Freeman still makes it work. (Mama Freeman, this randy writer wouldn’t treat your daughter mean, at any rate.)

Ironically, a song titled “Going Back” follows. This country-folk song and the ballad “Let It Go” are two more tunes to demonstrate Freeman’s worth. They also aid in substantiating comparisons to such singers as Linda Ronstadt and Melissa Etheridge.

The next number is “Ashes To Ashes”. Not to be confused with the David Bowie hit, this is a perhaps overshadowed original song that is noteworthy nonetheless. Aided by co-songwriter Stanley O’Kane, Freeman forms a song around an ancient children’s poem.

“Time To Call A Friend” is a slice of country pop that could just make it as a single. It’s one of the better songs on the album but too “spot-on” a choice for “Critic’s Choice”. Besides, co-written with Robin Knuckles and Martin, this is more of a group effort.

“Tell Me” is next and while it too seems another product of Freeman’s influences it has an interesting construction and she makes it seem less of an expected addition to the album and more of a cathartic cut. On “Help Me” Freeman finally slows things down a bit. It’s a ballad ripe with introspection and sounds strangely painful and yet tearless. It’s quite an aural palate cleanser and a needed break from the more rollicking tracks.

“Was It What You Wanted” is a country cut that contains a message that is somewhat expected and yet by no means cliché. “Critic’s Choice”, however, goes to the next number. “You’ll Fall In Love With Me” is pure country rock as Freeman’s delivery demonstrates. How could any man not fall in love with a lady who gives it this much effort? One wonders what she really is capable of in person. Confidence is a major turn on, mmmkay?

For reasons unknown, the closing cut is also the title track. Perhaps that’s because Freeman wanted to end the album on a strong note. This one also seems to tip a hat to her earlier influences and in some ways is vaguely reminiscent of a show tune of sorts.

By the end of the last song one can easily understand why critics can’t decide if Freeman sounds like Stevie Nicks, Janis Joplin, Bette Midler or any of the other above-mentioned performers. Perhaps much like her father, Freeman appreciates different musical genres and has no issue allowing them to make her tuneful tales of life, love, relationships truly her own. It seems Freeman who is one of the headline acts for the Real Blues Festival of Orange County 3 on Sunday, August 26 will continue to sing “You’ll Fall In Love With Me” to audiences until “Everyone Can See” that they just might not have much choice in the matter.

~ L.A. Examiner, William Phoenix, April 3, 2012

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