Monday, March 19, 2012

CD REVIEW - Freeman and Williams - Freeman and Williams

By W.J. Hallock

Freeman and Williams - Freeman and Williams

Label: Mountain Roads Recordings
Released: January 2012

In my humble opinion, some of the finest singers I have ever heard, I heard in church. And I heard them as a little boy sitting on the piano bench next to my Mother as she played all those great old hymns during Sunday morning services. And to my impressionable little ears, she and her three sisters sang the most beautiful four part harmony in the world. To this day, those familial voices are still one of my favorite childhood memories. There is something so uplifting about great singers singing great harmony on a great song.

Jeanette Williams, Scott Freeman and Johnny Williams have just released a new CD as “Freeman and Williams” on Mountain Roads Recordings, Bristol, TN. And the vocal harmonies on it are wonderful! The fifth song in, the old gospel song “I Surrender All,” took me right back to 1952! With Jeanette singing lead, Scott and Johnny singing the harmony parts and one simple guitar, they managed to nail down the finest version of the song I’ve heard. Simple, spare, honest and harmoniously heart felt, it’s the jewel of the entire CD. The ending is a joyous crescendo to a marvelous arrangement by Wesley Easter, engineer at Easter Recording Studio, Cana, Virginia. My Mother and her sisters would have loved this…..

The only other gospel song here, “My Reward,“ is an original, written by the trio, and it is a close second to my FIRST favorite! With original songs of this caliber, these three need to write together all the time. The eleven other songs on this thirteen song CD are all just as good, but the gospel ones just seem to have an extra “shine!” Using songs from Mary Chapin Carpenter, Shawn Camp, Tom T. and Dixie Hall, Tim Mensey, Wayland Patton, Allen Reynolds and Scott’s brother, Mitchell Freeman, plus old traditional songs like “John Henry,” there is no lack of good material for them to stretch out on. 

On his own original, “In Half The Time,” Scott puts all his many talents into play. Not only is it a well written, energetic and fun song, but, his playing sizzles! And his lead vocals are right on the money. Scott covers all the mandolin and fiddle parts on this CD, and his playing is perfect for this group sound. Their simple sound is seamless…… a person would be very hard pressed to even begin to tell just where Scott’s overdubs are! His timing and his FEEL are Great! Wesley Easter should also be applauded for his tech savvy in this project. Wesley should be considered the FOURTH member of this group….. And Johnny wears his “Producer” hat pretty well, also. All the time these four friends have spent together in the studio on the “Close Kin” project, and others, make this music that much better. This well oiled machine keeps right on turnin’ out good music! 

Jeanette’s awards and accolades spell out the fact that she is regarded as one of the finest voices in acoustic music. Her latest win is the 2012 SPBGMA Female Traditional Vocalist of the Year. “Illustrious” is the opportune word to describe her vocal career so far….. but, what stands out as just as important, on this CD, is her bass playing! Listen to her swing on “Too Long,” and you’ll hear just how fine an instrumentalist she is, too. One constant strength throughout this musical journey, is that the tempos are impeccable. This CD has a bounce to it that only comes from years and years of playing experience and a great sense of rhythm. Johnny and Scott have that same talent, and all together they are like a fine Swiss watch.

Where does one start with Johnny Williams? HIS list of musical credentials and acknowledgments is just as vast as Jeanette’s! His best asset, to me, is that the minute he starts singing, you KNOW its him. To stick out in a crowd of talented people is a BIG accomplishment. His production abilities, his knowledge, experience, vocal strength and musicianship make him invaluable to any project he is in on. 

Individually, these three have all done their solo projects, but together, they have a very sweet magic that comes across as warm and comfortable. They also project a sense of respect and doing their very best for the love of the music and each others talents. There doesn’t seem to be ANY pretense or ego involved in what they’ve presented here. Good music of this caliber doesn’t come along every day. Get this CD….. put it on…. and enjoy!


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