Thursday, February 29, 2024

CD Odyssey Disc 1716: Dori Freeman

Happy Leap Year! I don’t know why getting one extra day every four years is so whimsical and fun but…it is.

Maybe it is fitting that the other three albums by this next artist were reviewed within a year of their release but this next one took seven before I finally rolled it. Was there some leap year magic involved? Let’s say there was.

Disc 1716 is…Letters Never Read

Artist: Dori Freeman

Year of Release: 2017

What’s up with the Cover? Dori Freeman swings us an ‘over the shoulder’ for consideration. I hope that tile behind her is kitchen tile, because otherwise this picture was taken in the bathroom. Privacy please!

How I Came To Know It: I loved Freeman’s first album and was excited to hear the follow up. I would not be disappointed.

How It Stacks Up: I have four Dori Freeman albums which I thought was all of them, but in preparing to do this review I discovered she’d released something in 2023. D’oh! I must get this record! However, rules are rules and rules say when I’m done what’s currently in my collection I do a recap. So here it is. I’ll do another after I locate the new record and (hopefully) like it enough to buy it.

  1. Self-Titled: 5 stars (reviewed at Disc 947)
  2. Letters Never Read: 5 stars (reviewed right here)
  3. Every Single Star: 3 stars (reviewed at Disc 1367)
  4. Ten Thousand Roses: 3 stars (reviewed at Disc 1554)

 Rating: 5 stars

 Apparently no one told Dori Freeman about the sophomore slump, because her second record is just as wonderful as her first. ”Letters Never Read” doesn’t have that “undiscovered talent” thrill of her debut, but it has all the same charm, with an extra shot of confidence to boot.

It all starts with her voice. Her tone is as pure and sweet as anything in my collection, displaying all kinds of range without ever straining. It flows out of her so easy and naturally that you may not even notice how good it is, until you try to sing along and realize you can’t keep up. She can go low or high with equally rich tone, and she can hit a note with a smooth calm, or a trembling quaver with equal ability.

On “Letters Never Read” she has an added element of confidence in her delivery. The songs aren’t as raw as on her debut, but hearing that certainty of purpose gives you another facet to her delivery that makes the new record its own creature, a natural and welcome growth of her talent. You won’t sing along not just because it’s hard, but because you’d just rather hear her do it.

Freeman pairs that vocal prowess with a songwriting talent that is second to none. Lyrically, these songs are filled with simple words and minimal metaphor, but an honesty so deep and fragile that the simple phrasing will sink deep inside you.

Melodically, she writes with a meandering lilt. The songs themselves rarely exceed three minutes, but they feel like a river, undulating through a course that they’ve carved over millennia. The tunes are a perfectly crafted course; over in a hurry and leaving you wanting more, but knowing they said all they had to say in those too-brief moments.

“Letters Never Read” is a who’s who of folk royalty, old and new. Aoife O’Donovan sings harmony, as do Canadian duo Kacy & Clayton. She also enlists the talents of father and son folk heroes Richard and Teddy Thompson.

Most of the songs are originals, but like any good traditional folk record, she’s not afraid to tackle a classic. In this case it is the aforementioned elder Thompson’s 1974 tune with wife Linda, “I Want To See the Bright Lights Tonight”. I love the original but if I’m keeping it real, Freeman’s is better.

Heartwarmingly, she also does an acapella performance of a song written by…her grandfather. It is “Ern and Zorry’s Sneakin’ Bitin’ Dog” and it tells of two young lovers getting home late from the movies and having to elude the neighbourhood’s ill-mannered dog along the way. It’s a great tune, and a good example of how Freeman is solidly grounded in both the traditions of the genre but also her personal experience.

This combination of traditional and intensely personal make this record as perfect as her debut. A bit lighter, and a bit warmer around the edges, but just as overflowing with inspirational music.

Best tracks: all tracks

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