Jake Speed and the Freddies, four-time winners of Cincinnati’s Best Folk/Americana Band, have released their fifth album, World Come Clean.
Many of the songs on World Come Clean began as “Songitorials,” Speed’s year-long song-a-week project of 2006. However, these 10 original tunes (and 1 Son House cover) traveled a dark and lonesome road from their conception to this collection. Inspired by the spiraling out-of-control direction of the world, the first half of the album creeps through the minor key, acknowledging pestilence and pandemonium. Songs like “Devil In My Backyard,” “Rube Waddell,” and “A Midsummer’s Nightmare” allude to hell-fire and heartache. To enhance the urgently panicked sound, The Freddies expanded their typical bluegrass instrumentation, adding drums, electric bass, electric guitar, and violin. These soul-sold performances attempt to unlock the troubled tensions festering in the lyrics.
But just as the album seems lost in an endless decent into fire and brimstone, the title track, “World Come Clean,” reveals a transition to the hopefulness that has traditionally marked the moods of Jake Speed & The Freddies’ songs. Backed by Cincinnati Symphony’s Paul Patterson (who plays the entire string quartet), “World Come Clean” moves from downfall to redemption, just as the second half of the album moves towards a celebration of life and love in tunes like “Red-Haired Girl,” “John Hartford Waltz’” and “The Mines.”
The album ends with a horn-backed, tongue-in-cheek romp about “salvation” with “Ain’t Saved Enough,” a tune where The Freddies called on help from The Queen City Zapatistas. The album winds down with a lonesome lullaby and a song of hope for the grieving mother of a miscarriage with “Goodnight Moon.”