By Rob Dickens
Breakout Americana artist Dori Freeman has created quite a stir with the release of her debut album earlier this year.
The twenty-four year old’s album on Free Dirt Records is a spell-binder. You see, it’s her voice, as pure and defining as you could possibly imagine – it commands the air around you.
Freeman comes from the tiny but very important music town of Galax, south-west Virginia. It lies along The Crooked Road music heritage trail in the Appalachians and has fascinating attractions like Barr’s Fiddle Shop, the Rex Theatre and is close to The Blue Ridge Music Centre. Galax also hosts the annual Old Fiddler’s Convention which has been going for around eighty years. There’s a deep vein of music running through the generations here with families of musicians dating back a hundred years. Freeman says she is forever marked by her rural upbringing but also wants to bring a contemporary stamp to her music. “There’s something about seeing two completely contrary things together that I’ve always been really attracted to,” Freeman says. “The sound definitely centres around juxtaposition for me.” (I travelled a good part of The Crooked Road including Galax in 2014 and you can read my account here.)
As I mentioned during my review of her album earlier this year, it was produced by Teddy Thompson and is crammed full of achingly beautiful originals and demonstrates a surprising maturity. Freeman’s voice has immense range and subtlety and I can almost imagine her singing Ulysses by James Joyce backwards and it would still sound enchanting!
Since the release I have been lucky enough to catch her in concert twice in the U.S. and we are in for a treat.
Freeman will make her Australian debut at the Sydney Festival at St Stephen’s Uniting Church 28 January 2017. Dori will then return to Australia in March 2017 for a string of festival and headline concerts.
Friday 9 – 11 March Port Fairy Folk Festival, Port Fairy Vic
Wednesday 15 March Caravan Music Club, Oakleigh Vic
Thursday 16 March Northcote Social Club Northcote Vic
*Note NSW appearances to be announced early 2017
Freeman says the distinct sound of the record came about organically. “We just wanted it to sound genuine,” she says. “To be current and sincere.” All of that complexity and emotion drew Thompson to the project in a decidedly modern way: Freeman, a long-time fan, contacted him on Facebook on a whim, sending along a video of her singing one of her songs.
“I figured I wouldn’t get a response, but when he replied I was over the moon excited,” she says. “I was drawn to this project initially by Dori’s voice, which is purity itself,” Thompson says. “She sings from the heart with no affectation.”
The music on this stunning debut is the kind a listener can luxuriate in with Thompson showing up a couple of times with harmony vocals and guitar licks and a top-notch group of players offering lovely support without ever overpowering the profound emotive quality of Freeman’s vocals. Jon Graboff (The Cardinals) provides tight structure on guitar and steel guitar, Jeff Hill supplies a thumping bass, the much sought-after Erik Deutsch does excellent stylings on piano and keyboards, Rob Walbourne offers expert drumming that steers many of the best songs, and violin phenom Alex Hargreaves brings haunting fiddle work.
Don’t miss your chance to see her.