Thursday, November 16, 2023

Dori Freeman: “Do You Recall” (2023) CD Review

Dori Freeman is a singer and songwriter based in Virginia. She released her first album in 2016, a self-titled disc that was produced by Teddy Thompson. Since then, she has released several more albums, including 2021’s Ten Thousand Roses. Her new release, Do You Recall, while not produced by Teddy Thompson, does find him lending his voice on one of its tracks. Also joining her on this album are Nicholas Falk on drums, percussion, banjo, baritone guitar and backing vocals (Falk also produced the album); Adam Agati on electric guitar; Dashawn Hickman on steel guitar; Jeff Hill on electric bass (Hill also mixed the album); and Alex Bingham on electric bass, synths and mellotron. Dori Freeman plays acoustic guitar and provides the lead vocals on these tracks.

The album opens with its title track, “Do You Recall,” an easygoing, sweet-sounding number, a trip through memories. “Do you recall/When you gave me a ring/And we said everything/Do you still fall/Every time I sing, it always ends up being about you.” And of course I can’t help but appreciate the line “I heard you outside kicking to a Dead song.” I wonder which one she had in mind when writing this song. By the way, Dori Freeman just released a video to accompany this song. That’s followed by “Wrong Direction,” which mixes some country and pop elements, and features a gentle, loving delivery during the chorus. Check out these lines, which begin the song: “You’ve got that look about your eyes again/They’re pouring out, but nothing’s getting in/You’ve got a shell around my tender heart/Been trying to crack it from the very start.” Then “Soup Beans Milk And Bread” has a somber vibe as it begins, and features some nice touches on steel guitar. “I swear that it ain’t so bad/Can’t lose something you don’t have/Soup, beans, milk and bread.”

“Movie Screen” has a delightful, light folk sound, with some good work on banjo. It’s about watching a movie, and watching a specific person that screen, and in a larger sense it is about escape, escape from the ordinary details or our lives. Who doesn’t engage in that kind of escape? The song itself feels like a dance with those images. “And though it ain’t real, and though it ain’t true/It eases my mind for an hour or two.” Yes, indeed. We can all use that these days. “I quiet my sorrow with whisky and beer/Then I sway through the city ‘til I find my way here/Then I sit in the back, on the edge of the row/And I lose mind and body to the man in the show.” This is one of my personal favorites from this album. Dori Freeman changes gears again with “Good Enough,” which has more a rock vibe as it starts, with some 1960s influences, heard particularly in the guitar work. It has such a cool sound. This is the track that features Teddy Thompson on vocals, and is another of the disc’s highlights. “Do I live in reality/Or do I see what I want to see?

“Why Do I Do This To Myself” has a rocking country sound, with a solid beat and some prominent guitar work. I love the first lines of this song: “The clock is ticking like a warning/Judging everything I do/And as the night bleeds into morning/I lie awake and think of you.” She mentions whisky again in this one, in a line that is part of a “shelf”/“self” rhyme (here that rhyme is not as off-putting as it usually is). This is a song you want to hear in a bar; it has that feel to it. “Am I destined just to wander/When will I cross that borderline/Where will it end, I often ponder/And will the water turn to wine?” Then some beautiful vocal work begins “Rid My Mind,” Dori Freeman singing “I don’t want to be sad, I don’t want to be blue/I don’t want to be sad, I don’t want to be blue/I just want to rid my mind of you, I just want to rid my mind of you.” It settles into a good, slow country groove. This song features more good work on steel guitar, and is about wanting to get someone out of her mind. Check out these lines: “At least I’ve learned my lesson now/Not every heart is true/Some lovers only take your hand/When they want more from you.” And what a beautiful vocal performance. This is another highlight.

There is a cool 1960s element to “River Runs,” a hint of a psychedelic influence. Here she again uses the image of a movie screen: “Every day that passes by is like a movie/And every ending makes me cry, it cuts right through me.” Her vocal performance is captivating, and is part of the reason this track stands out and is yet another of my favorites. I can’t help but appreciate these lines: “And everybody needs a hand/With getting older.” And check out that guitar work in the middle. Then early in “They Do It’s True,” she sings, “And yes, all of my bills are paid/But that don’t mean I’ve got in made.” Indeed. Sometimes that is the most we can hope for, it seems, and that is just wrong. And check out these lines: “Our world is burning, but it’s fine if you’re a CEO/Making your earnings on the suffering down here below.” Yes, this is a song for our time, no question. What drives me crazy is that people at the low end are voting for people at the high end, voting against their own interests, thinking that one day they’ll be at the top and will be able to spit on others themselves. “But they won’t let the well run dry/At least not for the ones up high/The rest of us can fight over the bones.”

“Laundromat” is an adorable song, and early on when she sings of her blue jeans in the washer, I’m reminded of Donovan’s “I Love My Shirt,” the verse about how he’d rather wash his jeans in a stream. Like that song, there is something playful about this one. But there is something more contemplative here as well, with a sense of melancholy. “The dryer hums me a lullaby/And into paradise I fly/I come late when the morning is nigh/And wash away all my frustrations/Who’s got time for that/It’s my laundromat vacation.” The album concludes with “Gonna Be A Good Time.” This one has something of a 1960s folk vibe as it starts, that combination of female and male vocals. Then she is alone, appropriately, when she sings, “Ooh, when I sing without you/I only sing about you.” There is something delightfully sweet about the sound of this one. I think it would be difficult to not fall for this track. “It’s gonna be a good time,” Dori Freeman tells us.

CD Track List

  1. Do You Recall
  2. Wrong Direction
  3. Soup Beans Milk And Bread
  4. Movie Screen
  5. Good Enough
  6. Why Do I Do This To Myself
  7. Rid My Mind
  8. River Runs
  9. They Do It’s True
  10. Laundromat
  11. Gonna Be A Good Time

Do You Recall is scheduled to be released on November 17, 2023.

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