I have a feeling that Steve Free’s latest CD, There for You, could be the CD he has been working on all his life. I don’t mean literally, of course, but this CD feels like a culminating experience created by an artist who has been in the business quite a few years. By culminating, I mean the cumulative rather than the final, but Free has a variety of musical skills that he has acquired and perfected over the years, and this generous 13 track set highlights that talent.
I have listened to this CD three to four times in the two weeks that I have had it, and it does not disappoint. One track that sticks with the listener, is “Highway of Love.” I admit, the track did not stand out to me the first time I listened to it, but now the blending of Free’s voice with the harmony vocals of the chorus is playing in my head. There was a time when this upbeat folk sound would sound right at home being counted down by Casey Kasem on American Top 40- parts of it reminds me of Arlo Guthrie and Danny O’Keefe who had crossover pop hits in the early 1970s.
“The Legend of the Old Peddler” instantly grabbed me. This light and upbeat track is accompanied by a fiddle throughout. Plus, it tells a story, and a bit of a ghost story at that, so he instantly had my attention. This song is a double treat with its lyrics and David Johnson’s fiddle. Free’s voice is perfect for this number as he tells us a story in a gentle manner that complements his vocal style.
Southern Ohio natives 50 and over (and maybe some younger) will relate to “Wildflowers in the Moonlight.” Grandma’s wildflowers in the Mason jar might not sound like what your family did, but the story Free tells of growing up in Southern Ohio will not sound foreign to those who grew up from 1940- 1980. Innocence comes through in the lyrics- one lyrical delicacy that sticks out to me is, “Grandpa was a deacon, but I’m not sure what deacons do.” I’m sure many youth thought things like that as they grew up; I know I did. I knew my dad was a die changer, but I had no idea what a die changer did.
Probably the best-produced track is “I’ll Be There for You,” the opening semi-title track. This track showcases what is to come on the CD- a smooth, gentle blending of instruments, lead, and backing vocals. And the instruments are not scarce. All the right components are present to make this track a perfect opener for what lies ahead.
When a CD has 13 tracks, it does not make for a good article to review them all, but so many are worth mentioning. “Open Your Eyes” is a harmonica-led feel-good song with a message similar to Mac Davis’s “Stop and Smell the Roses.” Also featured on this song is a kazoo and a children’s chorus. Two other tracks that stand out are “Inch by Inch (Susan’s Garden)” featuring a beautiful harmony female vocal, which I am surmising is Susan Free, Steve’s wife and the likely protagonist of this song. Also, not to be missed is Ake Alagwa which in addition to captivating lyrical sounds features Free on the Native American Flute.
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