Grace Freeman - Shadow (2017)

Written by Daniel Boyer, posted by blog admin

This isn’t just another quiet offering from some singer/songwriter working through well worn tropes. The first solo album from songwriter Grace Freeman meets listeners where they live, serving up instantly relatable experiences, personal meditations on deep subject matter, and more than enough musical merit to satiate even the most ardent music obsessive. The songs are cut to a manageable length and there’s never any sense of Freeman overreaching and testing the patience of her audience – each of these songs seem to know exactly where they want to go from the outset and never shirk their potential. It is true that this is a distinctly muted affair, the scaled down sonics complementing Freeman’s voice, but that doesn’t mean the performances don’t possesses the needed physicality to engage listeners. Shadow is full of shadows, but it’s also full of bracing music that involves listeners from the outset.

The first two songs are a study in contrasts. “Oliver” is essentially a solo performance with just an acoustic guitar and Freeman’s voice taking center stage while the title song and follow up brings other instruments like drums and bass into the mix with notable results. They both have their own peculiar intimacy – there’s naturally a closeness formed between performer and listener when there are minimal instruments involved, but “Oliver” communicates in unusual ways too. Freeman’s vocal gives it the quality of something near secret, a story being told out of school, and it ends up being about more than just the “Oliver” of the title. The title song tangles with the listener in a much more direct, assertive way musically. The intimacy here comes from how Freeman increases her emotive range and power here, presumably in response to the increased power in the musical arrangement, and as such connects much more quickly with listeners. The opener “Oliver” is a more studied listen in comparison.

The album makes no real concessions to the marketplace. There’s no obvious hit single. Freeman does indulge herself with a much more upbeat melodic approach on two tracks, “Trying to Say Goodbye” and “Dreams” that produces a welcome shift in emotional gears for listeners. Track listing is a big deal on Shadow. The songs are tracked in a coherent fashion mindful of the fact great things can be accomplished orchestrating the running order in a dramatic way. They both have a bounce largely lacking from the album’s more downbeat numbers that will stick with listeners long after the individual songs end. Two of the more lyrical cuts from Shadow meriting discussion are “Another Long Night” and “Autumn”. These tracks contain all the gravitas we encountered in the opening two songs, but “Another Long Night” is distinguished by its spot on conversational lyrics and “Autumn” is a musical work with near poetry serving as the lyrical content. There’s no question that Grace Freeman is a versatile and remarkable, especially at nineteen years old, writer, but her performing skills certainly transform the contents of Shadow into something greater than perhaps even she would have initially imagined.