Faster than you can say, "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?" Jake Speed & the Freddies have hit the Cincinnati music scene and ventured down the old dusty road of American folk, bluegrass, and ragtime music. Jake Speed & the Freddies are a four-piece band made out of flat top guitar, dobro, mandolin, and upright bass (plus harmonica, kazoo, washboard, and watering can). Their songs leap right out of Depression-era freight trains and boom shacks while their performances transform venues into old-time western saloons. Their near-vaudeville style stage shows and quick-witted charisma rope in loyal fans of new and old generations alike. The Freddies traditionalist approach to the old timey music style has won them the respect of fellow musicians, music lovers, and even hard-nosed critics. Local music icon Ric Hickey says this about Jake Speed: "He is a natural born talent and a one-man renaissance of the long-lost American forms of the country folk-blues." A devoted Freddies fan and college student Aaron Smith says, "The Freddies are flat-out inspiring. They're original, fun, and full of life." If you're still not convinced, maybe their winning of three 2002 Cincinnati Entertainment Awards for Artist of the Year, Best Singer/Songwriter, and Best Folk/Roots Musicians will provide your stamp of approval.
While news of their recent awards is late-breaking, the Freddies certainly are not. These boys have been aboard the Cincinnati music scene for a number of years. In 2001-02, they played over 150 shows at more than 40 venues in 6 different cities. They have performed opening sets for national acts such as Ralph Stanley, Jay Bennett (WILCO), The Waybacks and Michelle Malone. Their music has been broadcast in all areas of the Tri-state on several different radio stations. The Freddies have performed on multiple occasions on News Channels 9 as well as on the City Nights cable access show. Their monthly gigs at Arnold's, Northside Tavern, and Kaldi's have laid the tracks for a solid following of fans, young and old. A true bonus to any Freddies show is their tongue-in-cheek stories and crowd-engaging antics, such as audience parades, watering can solos, and sing-alongs, all of which keep audiences of all makes and models thoroughly entertained.
The Freddies' debut CD, Queen City Rag, was recently honored as a nominee for Album of the Year by CityBeat's Cincinnati Entertainment Awards. The disc contains 16 tracks of both traditional folk classics and original Freddies standards with themes of Cincinnati life, riverboat living, social humor, death, hard luck and folk legend. The Queen City Rag is consistently featured on Cincinnati radio stations like WNKU and WAIF. Larry Nager of the Cincinnati Enquirer says, "Just when 'folk music' was becoming a euphemism for acoustic pop, [Jake Speed and the Freddies] deliver an hour's worth of pure hootenanny pleasure." Rick Bird of the Cincinnati Post writes, "...Queen City Rag is a wonderfully clever album full of great writing, fine guitar picking and jamming kazoo."
The four musical conductors aboard the Freddies include Jake Speed, Robert Brown, Justin Todhunter, and Chris Werner. Jake sings, picks guitar and banjo, blows harmonica, buzzes kazoo, and kicks the beat on the washboard. Robert Brown flat picks 18-mile runs on his flat-top guitar. Justin Todhunter strums and picks on the tiniest of little old mandolins. Chris Werner pounds and thumps on the upright bass. Jake Speed & the Freddies make up boxcars full of original Cincinnati songs while reviving the music of legends like Woody Guthrie, Jimmie Rodgers, Elizabeth Cotten, and Jesse Fuller. The Freddies were born on the streets of Cincinnati where they performed their songs for tips. You can still find them from time to time playing at Findlay Market, Reds games, and local ice cream corners. Their thoughts are, " Heck, if you ain't good enough for the street corner, what are you good for?"