Cable Car Records – 2016
12 Tracks; 67 minutes
Once it became clear that this is a rock album, it became easier to evaluate. And it is a rock album, with a couple of blues/rock and contemporary blues tracks added. I’m not saying this is a bad thing – it is what it is, and it is done well.
This trio is from Germany but they seem to be channeling several American rock bands (with a dash of English Cream) from the 70s and blending them into their own style. You can hear influences from Rare Earth, The Allman Brothers, Edgar Winter and a couple of others that stay just far enough below the surface to defy identification. Freischlader wrote all the songs on the album, including English lyrics. Imagine trying get idioms, rhymes, slang, and of your second language right, and then singing them with the right feel.
One of the pitfalls of the Power Trio is that the guitarist feels that he has to fill every second of a song with sound. While Henrik Freischlader is guilty of that in several tracks, particularly the title track, “Openness”, he does leave some air in many, particularly “Business Straight” and “Today I’m Gonna Change”.
Freischlader is a self-taught multi-instrumentalist and has put out an album on which he played guitar, bass, drums, percussion and Hammond organ. He has an excellent voice and sings with heartfelt expression. He growls on the rockers and caresses on the ballads, and moves up and down the full blues/rock vocal range throughout the entire album.
The band is tight with Alex Grube laying down some very nice bass lines and Carl-Michael Grabinger on drums, propels the band ever forward.
A few stand out tracks are “Lord Have Mercy” where Freischlader shows off some impressive slide skills as the band gets into a swamp rock/blues groove. “Early Morning Blues”, in spite of starting off with the lyric “Woke up this morning …” (yes, really, but remember, English is not his first language). This song has that loping blues swing feel that just makes you feel good when you listen to it.
The album has a pleasing mix of hard driving rock, hints of jazz and soul, a little 60s R&B and even a pop ballad, Never Really Left You. One of the best rockers with some blues underpinnings and a terrific vocal is the second last tune on the album, “High Expectations”.
If you are a blues purist, you will probably lament that this album would only be known as a blues album by one or two tracks, and even these would be considered blues light by most diehard blues fans. But if you are into contemporary blues, this album will be right up your alley. It has some killer licks, great vocals, some good songs and an accomplished band.
I am not a purist but I tend to prefer blusier blues bands, but I have found myself listening to this album quite often and enjoying the vibe. A lot.
Eine Kleine Bluesmusik … danke schoen.