From America’s Back Roads, Via New York City
There are times when you have to reach out and take a chance. When you take the name Reverend Freakchild someone is taking his chance, so I gave him a chance and listened to his sermon. He wanted to be in the line of the great reverends: Robert Wilkins, Horton Heat, and Billy C. Wirtz. Not a small feat by any means, but I have to admit this reverend might not be pure blues, but has a great album of American roots music. Turn down that dusty dirt road and leave the cell phone behind, the Reverend Freakchild is at the wheel.
When I first opened the disc I expected to hear something aggressive along the Horton Heat psychobilly lines, but instead I found a musician who plays guitar and harmonica who can write a song stronger than King freakin’ Kong! The songs aren’t even statement songs or political songs at all, they are just written with an older quill. This album reminds me of what was being released in the 1990s as the blues was booming and G. Love and Beck were leading the charge in the indie scene of preaching the blues to the middle-class white folks in high school. There were many other groups I liked a lot better than those two, and the Rev would have fit into that fold.
The album has him mainly using his Cosmic All-Stars as the band behind him. There are also tracks with Rev solo that sound just as full. The Cosmic All-Stars have some serious musical pedigree and some weird off-off-off the beaten path Broadway shows. To compare in sounds I have to use some obscure references of Preacher Boy, PW Long’s Reelfoot, and Woodbrain.
This album is a great album to get you started on a road trip. “Strange Magic” has a trippy groove to get you movin’. But most albums aren’t about the first song. It’s about the second and “Sweet, Sweet You” should get some serious radio play. You’re on the road now, on the highway headed clearly away from home and this mellow tune will set your mind at ease and get it flowin’. A dream of death leads to nods of Sister Rosetta, Son House, Jimi, Janis, John Lennon, and more that opens up channels in your mind that the road truly gives access to. There are some other tracks that hit on a similar vibe and the Rev sounds good in this setting, especially with some lap steel and fiddle behind him. Those instruments take the recording from being plain to lost in the plains.
To stretch things out the Rev takes his “Worried Mind” on a six-and-a-half-minute jam exploring depths that the rest of the album hint at, but come out on this song. His slashing slide work on “Don’t Miss a Thing” is a blues lover’s delight – modern day Son House. Another straight on blues riff is “A Day Late and A $ Short.” The writing has a Willie Dixon-type of lyric. “My Good Friend Legba” has some deep resonator guitar on it that takes him down in the bayou swamps. This guy is chameleon-like in his playing. The Reverend Freakchild can play so many styles with precision and passion. He has no need to be labeled a blues musician though.
- Kyle M. Palarino is a contributing editor at BluesWax.