Written by Larry Robertson, posted by blog admin
Nineteen Grace Freeman isn’t a newcomer to the music world, but her first solo album Shadow represents the fullest invocation of her talents free from and unfettered by any outside songwriting contributions. The eleven songs included in the release are entertaining musical excursions guided by a supremely talented singer, but they likewise play as intensely personal statements that, nonetheless, remain accessible to her intended audience all the while. It largely embraces the acoustic guitar as the primary instrument, but Freeman isn’t afraid to incorporate other instruments into her sonic palette and it results in Shadow coming off as a delicious versatile collection that never lacks for eloquence or entertainment value. The production is remarkably sympathetic to her aims and stages her compositions in the best possible methods with an ear always tuned to making a balanced presentation. This is one of the most notable solo debuts of 2017.
“Oliver” begins Shadow on a brooding note, but the sensitivity of Freeman’s voice redeems every shadow and nicely wraps around the acoustic guitar powering the song. It’s melodic to a lyrical degree and practically acts as a second voice complementing Freeman’s ethereal singing. The title song comes next and as a still, almost crystalline beauty competing with more forceful sections where drumming comes into play for the first time on the album and gives some much needed heft to the combination of Freeman’s voice and piano. Her singing is much more forceful here and does an excellent job conveying hidden strengths in order to match the weight of the drumming and light orchestration around her. “Trying to Say Goodbye” has a jaunty pop vibe that sounds almost Beatle-esque and certainly contains some of Regina Spektor’s influence. Freeman’s personality fills the track, however, giving deadly serious matters of the heart a playful veneer they would otherwise lack.
“Blue Eyed Boy” has more of a folk song vibe, no doubt strengthened by the guiding presence of mandolin propelling the song forward musically, and the tenderly wrought vocal from Freeman balances out nicely against it. Her lyrical acumen is high; there isn’t a song on Shadow that feels like it has placeholder lyrics and “Blue-Eyed Boy” ranks among the album’s finest moments in this area. “Autumn” is another memorable musical and lyrical achievement benefitting from a particularly sensitive Freeman singing performance and “Muddy Puddles” scores high in both areas as well. The latter track, however, shows Freeman’s considerable gifts for imbuing her songwriting with distinctly literary qualities that few of her songwriting contemporaries can match. There are elements of folk music coming through on “Mountain’s Peak”, but it rests much more comfortably in the singer/songwriter camp and elicits one of Freeman’s finest lyrics and vocal performances. The lyrical content, especially, deserves mention thanks to its deft mix of specific detail and the direct way it conveys emotion. Grace Freeman’s Shadow doesn’t fall under one particular label and it’s a better album for it. There’s something here for everyone who enjoys artful songwriting.