Reverend Freakchild – Hillbilly Zen-Punk Blues | Album Review

reverendfreakchildcdReverend Freakchild – Hillbilly Zen-Punk Blues

Treated and Released Records

CD: 10 Songs; 37:31 Minutes

Styles: Drone/Trance Blues, Acoustic Blues, Folk

When yours truly opened up the CD case of New York City-based Reverend Freakchild’s third album, out fluttered a promotional sticker. It featured a quote from Living Blues Magazine: “His attitude is irreverent, but his enthusiasm for the blues is clear.” Truly, a better summary could not be composed for Hillbilly Zen-Punk Blues. This cryptic title follows in the vein of those from the Reverend’s first two releases, Chaos & Country Blues and God Shaped Hole. Freakchild has several aliases, including Billy, Bhoomisparsha, Fordham, Sal Paradise, Swaraj, and Floyd Graves (check his website for proof). These many incarnations fit in with a Wikipedia revelation: “In an interview, Freakchild mentioned that he is a Buddhist, but that he also considers music to be his religion. Freakchild states that the blues and Buddhism can both be seen as ways of confronting reality and the truth of human suffering.”

The “Bio” section of his webpage states, “In the tradition of such Blues Reverends as Rev. Gary Davis, such is the irreverent Reverend Freakchild.  Like John Hammond Jr., he is a student of the Blues.  He has played in many bands, including an early incarnation of Soul Coughing with M. Doughty, leaving to form the roots-rock jam band Bananafish in Boston and then on to some work with The Neptune Ensemble, The Soul Miners (w/guitar virtuoso Matt Rae), The Lucky Devils and The Cosmic All-Stars touring internationally. [He] has also served as a member and featured soloist of the Metro Mass Gospel Choir performing at such venues as Carnegie Hall, Avery Fischer Hall and the Town Hall Theater.  The Rev’s music has been featured in many TV programs and commercials, and also national radio advertising campaigns.”

What of his music? Like Zen Buddhism, it’s contemplative and esoteric, meant to empty one’s mind of worries and fears and fill it with peace. Joining him in performing ten tracks (eight originals written by Freakchild, one original by co-producer Hugh Pool, and one arrangement of a traditional tune) are Chris Parker on drums and percussion, Hugh Pool on lap-steel guitar and harmonica, Tugboat Eustis on bass, John Ragusa on flute, and background vocals by the Mulebone Singers. Freakchild himself does lead vocals, guitars and “Holy Ghost Sounds”.

The following track sounds the most like traditional blues, which will satisfy die-hard fans:

Track 07: “She Wants My Name” – Written by Hugh Pool, this gritty stomp features his keen harmonica skills and Freakchild’s tongue-in-cheek lyrics: “She wants my name; she wants my name. She gave me her body for now.” Even though the Reverend’s lead vocals are flat and conversational, like those heard at a poetry slam, they portray our narrator’s frustrated numbness. “I’m just a man,” he repeats, leading listeners to suspect his lover wants a superhero instead.

Hillbilly Zen-Punk Blues is nothing short of an enigma, one that purists may not be inclined to unravel. However, those who want to mellow out and let tranquility suffuse their souls will find this CD a welcome respite from electric-guitar shredding!

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