Album Reviews

Freebo

If Not Now When

Artist:     Freebo

Album:     If Not Now When

Label:     Self-released

Release Date:     04/21/2015

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Daniel Friedberg, otherwise known as Freebo, was the perennial sideman. Bonnie Raitt’s bandmate during the early days of her career as a budding blues woman, he and his bass playing became an integral part of her seminal sound. Later, he played alongside other notables such as Ringo Starr, John Mayall, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Dr. John and Willy DeVille, but like many players for hire, he never had much opportunity to inject his individual ideas into the music of those whom he served.

Consequently, after he and Raitt parted ways, Freebo slipped into the anonymity of studio work, a skilled support musician whose name was rarely found on the marquee. Despite four previous solo albums, he’s never exactly qualified as a household name.

Whether his new album changes things remains to be seen, but If Not Now When at least finds him in contention. As the title indicates, Freebo sounds fired up, offering up a set of agreeable melodies that bask in commercial appeal. At times he comes across as a bit of a Pollyanna, a high-minded optimist exploiting his true folk finesse. In the liner notes he describes the album as a culmination of a musical and spiritual journey, and indeed, given song titles such as “To The Light,” “A God of My Own Choosing,” “I Ain’t Runnin’ No More,” and “Call Me Freedom,” he conveys his euphemistic ideals and a sense of sublime satisfaction. At times, the platitudes take him over the top, as evidenced by this lyric from “To the Light”: “How do we hear the wisdom/Of crickets in the night/Singing out of sight/From way down here?”

Yet, given the array of bubbly melodies and its overall optimism, If Not Now When is in fact a mostly appealing offering. Fortunately, he’s not one to take himself too seriously; with a wry perspective (think Jimmy Buffett circa Changes in Attitudes, Changes in Latitudes) and songs such as the “Funk Up the Folk” and “She Loves My Dog More Than Me,” any hint of preachiness quickly dissipates. A sunny set of songs, If Not Now When makes for a timely proposition.

—Lee Zimmerman

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