It’s in the seemingly effortless ease with which he delivers his conversational lyrics and mellifluous melodies, this natural magic that is at the heart of Tom Freund’s music. Though he’s well-schooled and widely-traveled in a variety of genres -- from hearftelt folk to buoyant pop to boho jazz to straightforward rock ’n’ roll, and beyond -- Freund ultimately comes across simply as a singer-songwriter with his own singularly distinctive and engaging voice.
Collapsible Plans, Freund’s fourth full-length album, puts that voice -- in terms of both his artistic identity and his evocative singing -- front-and-center. Produced by his longtime friend Ben Harper, and featuring piano and vocal contributions from Jackson Browne on two tracks, Collapsible Plans is Freund’s most focused and fully realized recording to date, combining top-shelf musicianship with the strongest set of songs Freund has yet gathered on a single disc.
”I wanted to make a record for a long time that really felt like ‘a time and a place,’ the way records used to be made,” Freund says. “My last couple were done in different states and with different folks; this one feels very tangible to me and my life at this time. It was great having Ben in the room with me; I trusted his sensibilities as a fellow songwriter.”
Perhaps the most telling aspect of Freund’s songs is that “I just walk away singing them constantly,” Harper observes. “Tom has written consistently strong songs for as long as I’ve known him.”
They’ve known each other for nearly two decades, and in 1992 recorded the limited-release Ben Harper & Tom Freund LP Pleasure And Pain, which helped to launch Harper’s career. Freund subsequently spent several years playing bass with acclaimed roots-rock band the Silos before striking out on his own with North American Long Weekend, his 1998 solo debut on the Mercury subsidiary Red Ant Records.
Since then, Freund has alternated between recording and touring behind his own discs (2001’s Sympatico and 2005’ s Copper Moon, plus a couple of EPs) and playing upright bass, electric bass guitar, and mandolin with the likes of British pub-rock great Graham Parker and rising groove-soul sensation Brett Dennen. (You’ll even find him on a couple of tracks from pop star Mandy Moore’s 2007 disc Wild Hope.)
A 2006 summer tour with Harper helped rekindle the old friends’ collaborative spirits, which led to Harper getting involved as producer of Collapsible Plans. “I’ve always been a fan of Tom’s work, and I thought that I had something to bring to Tom sonically that was maybe a place he hadn’t stepped into yet,” Harper says.
Two tracks on Collapsible Plans feature the unmistakable piano and vocal contributions of Browne, who Freund had recently met at a show. “Jackson and I were both asked to perform at a benefit for our friend Wally Ingram in the Hollywood Hills,” Freund recalls. “I got up and started to play ‘Why Wyoming,’ which I had just written, and by the second verse I hear this amazing piano, and then by the second chorus I hear these amazing vocals. I turn around, and there is Jackson, like an old friend, jamming on my little song as if we had done it a thousand times before!”
The songs on Collapsible Plans also benefit greatly from the musicianship of Harper, who played lap steel and sang backup on many tracks as well as adding occasional touches of percussion, vibes, Wurlitzer, mandocello, and harmonium. Others who contributed to the recording include guitarist Michael Ward and keyboardist Jason Yates of Harper’s band the Innocent Criminals, as well as drummer Michael Jerome and keyboardist Fil Krohnengold.
Their playing provides an exquisite and fitting frame for Freund’s captivating compositions. “What really brought me to wanting to work with Tom in the studio is his songs,” Harper concludes. “It doesn’t have to even go any further than that. As far as I’m concerned, who wouldn’t wanna work with him in the studio? Because the songs are there.”
\"Every year the mounting landfill of new releases that threatens to bury the working music journalists yields a few unexpected gems, and Tom Freund is one of them.\" - THE NEW YORK TIMES
\"A fitting soundtrack to \'On the Road\': Gorgeous wide-open spacious scenes, explorations of the young heartand quests from personal truth unfold in its literate, rootsy songs.\" -NEW YORK POST
\"Freund clearly delights in enigma. His vocals could go from laconic to impassioned without such obvious trickery as cranking up the volume. His lyrics are full of curveballs.\" - WASHINGTON POST
\"Journeyman Freund is soundtrack ready. He made an album that is all at once addictive, stylistically diverse and honest to the core.\" -MSNBC
\"An organic collection of songs and stories, breathing with an acoustic richness and lyrics that capture slices of Americana in a way that many attempt, yet very few actually master.\" - NO DEPRESSION
\"If Tom Petty and Nick Drake had a love child.\" - BLOGCRITICS.COM
\"Tom Freund is indeed one of the great singer-songwriters. He constructs a unique world, defines it, and then burns it to the ground. Truly unique and absolutely brilliant.\" - ALL MUSIC GUIDE
\"I get shivers down my spine on almost every tune. Along with Lucinda Williams, Freund is the best singer/songwriter operating today.\" - GRAHAM PARKER
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