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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Grace Freeman - Shadow (2017)

Written by Raymond Burris, posted by blog admin

Nineteen year old Grace Freeman’s solo debut Shadow is the sort of album you want to start off a career with. It establishes her as a talent of the first rank with vocal and songwriting skills advanced far past her age. Freeman carries the album’s eleven songs with the sort of unassuming confidence we sense in performers far her senior and with a vast repository of musical experiences and doesn’t require much instrumentation to bring it off. Much of the album is constructed around piano and acoustic guitar, but its low-fi trappings are no impediment to the release sounding modern and relevant. There are some older influences at work in Freeman’s music, but it’s equally clear that more current songwriters hold an imaginative sway over her work. Regina Spektor is her clearest connection in this area, but it isn’t anything that ever limits Freeman’s potential. Instead, she does what any great artist, regardless of medium, manages – she takes what she needs from the predecessors who shaped her, filters it through her own experiences and budding artistry, so that it emerges in her work as something informed, yes, but also distinctly hers.

We can hear this most strongly on the album’s more meditative tracks. “Oliver”, the album’s opener, “Shadow”, “Another Long Night”, and “Muddy Puddles” are among the most melancholy moments on the release. The first track rates as one of the best written lyrics included here and Freeman invests it with the right balance of storytelling dramatics and atmosphere thanks to her higher register voice. “Shadow”, the only one of the aforementioned four tracks reliant on piano, also incorporates more of a band approach with the inclusion of a rhythm section. It gives the title song an unexpectedly stately feel that proves to be an unusual mix with Freeman’s intimate lyrical content. “Another Long Night” and “Muddy Puddles” are built around the acoustic guitar. The first track comes across as much more personal in scope while “Muddy Puddles” sounds more like an imaginative act rather than something torn from the pages of Freeman’s autobiography.

Freeman never aims for pop or radio glory on Shadow, but that doesn’t mean her material never manifests any commercial appeal. “Trying to Say Goodbye” and “Dreams” both take up a different musical feel than the rest of the album and their distinctly brighter hue is a welcome change in direction on a collection that often approaches the listener with deadly seriousness. Drums, piano, and bass return on the album closer “Gemini” and the tempo picks up in such a way that it brings Shadow to a satisfying, sweeping conclusion. This is one of the best solo debuts in recent memory and puts Grace Freeman out front in a way that is certain to gain her some much deserved attention.  

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