Written by Frank McClure, posted by blog admin
The beauty of Grace Freeman’s eleven song solo debut Shadow is undeniable, but its power may be underrated on a first listen. Freeman has a soft, dream-like voice that could lull any living thing into a pleasurable state, but the rougher-hewn material on the album draws a quiet strength out of her voice that matches her frequent use of a band, particularly strong drumming, and conveys some of the more desperate lyrics with a head up, eyes looking skyward defiance that communicates nothing will hold or keep her down for long. The album is built primarily around acoustic guitar and Freeman’s voice, but she brings other important instruments into the mix and the variation they lay on Shadow makes it a deeper, richer musical experience. This as memorable of a first solo release as Freeman could have hoped for.
“Oliver” starts off Shadow in a low-key, albeit rather dark, sort of way. The acoustic guitar passages and vocal weave a delicate spell without ever rendering things too exquisite – this never sounds like a beautiful butterfly trapped under glass but, instead, a breathing musical composition that moves from the first and never risks anything resembling self-indulgence. “Shadow” has a similar emotional feel but a weightier heft thanks to the assertive drumming and bass playing that gives the song a definite bottom end. This gives listeners the first inkling of that aforementioned quiet strength she can bring to her performances and it proves to be an entertaining, if not exactly cheerful, listen. The musical mood picks up with the song “Trying to Say Goodbye” and the poppier aspects of the performance never cheapen her musical goals. Instead, this would likely serve as an excellent song to introduce newcomers to Freeman’s talents.
“Another Long Night” has some sterling writing powering its lyrics and a thoughtful musical arrangement that complements her voice and the words. It is, certainly, another less than cheerful number, but there’s little doubt about the heart invested in this performance and how freely Freeman gives herself over to the song. “Dreams” is, somewhat, reminiscent of the earlier “Trying to Say Goodbye” and the musical lilt fueling its mood offers us a nice respite from the heavier material on Shadow. Another memorable turn with the writing comes on the track “Muddy Puddles” as Freeman shows her talents for using metaphor to deepen a song’s impact. “God Forbid” combines the best of the album’s singer/songwriter side with the commercial inclinations detected in tracks like “Trying to Say Goodbye” and “Dreams”. The lyrical material is, definitely, Freeman at her rawest, but her artful touch with words remains intact. The album’s penultimate track, “Mountain’s Peak”, has a wonderfully balanced combination of concrete imagery and suggestive passages allowing the audience to form their own interpretations. Shadow has a lot of different musical faces and Freeman handles them all with unwavering confidence.