By Russ Paris

Freebo_-_Something_to_BelieveFreebo is best recognized for the decade or more that he recorded and toured with Bonnie Raitt. In fact, Freebo is a genuine folk, rock and blues icon. For more than 30 years, Freebo has played bass and tuba on recordings and toured with some of the great artists of our time: Bonnie Raitt, John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers, Crosby Stills & Nash, Maria Muldaur, Ringo Starr, Michelle Shocked, Neil Young, Loudon Wainwright III, Dr. John, and many others. He has also appeared on Saturday Night Live, Midnight Special, Muppets Tonight, and in concert with the legendary Spinal Tap.

When I first met Freebo back in 1997, he had just released his debut solo album, The End Of The Beginning, and was just learning to step into the spotlight as a headliner after decades as a consummate side- man. That CD featured appearances by many of his talented friends including Bonnie Raitt, Paul Barrere, Catfish Hodge, Albert Lee, Sam Clayton and others. That CD has a variety of styles and showed great promise for Freebo's future solo career including some clever song writing, good rock and pop sensibilities developed over decades of working with some of the best artists around, and fine production by Freebo and Michael Jochum.

It was during his years touring in support of his first solo release, as well as his subsequent releases Dog People (2002) and Before the Separation (2005) that Freebo fully embraced -- and was embraced by -- the modern folk music community. His compassionate concern for the world and people around him, as evidenced both in his lyrics and his open stage banter, made the connection an easy one. And while his solo debut might be placed in the rock and roll record bins, certainly Before the Separation is very much a folk album, with supreme concern and emphasis on the world around him.

All this is to say that in the past decade, in a steady transition, Freebo has become an award-winning singer, songwriter and folk artist. He has been honored with a 2008 Posi Award for "Best Song."

2007 L.A. Music Awards "Best Folk Artist," Winner of the 2007 South Florida Songwriting Contest, a 2009 finalist in The Great American Songwriting Contest, and a finalist in five different categories of JPF Awards.

Freebo's latest CD, Something To Believe (2011), was produced by Freebo and co-produced and engineered by Robert Tepper who also co- wrote many of the songs. The CD includes 11 tracks, all but one co- written by Freebo. There are guest appearances by Mark Goldenberg, Shayne Fontayne, Skip Edwards, Rosemary Butler, Fuzzbee Morse, Dan Navarro, Jeff Pevar, Albert Lee and Jude Johnstone among others.

The collection starts with Standing Ovation, a track which may well be the highlight of the CD and could turn out to be the zenith of Freebo's career. It's an astounding song, which encompasses a profound view of life. If you could view your own funeral, what would you like to witness? Freebo's answer is astute and insightful:

When I die,

Give me a standing ovation,

A celebration

For a job well done.

It's an ideal that we can all strive for, to lead a life that aims for such a result. This lead-off track is destined to become a classic and certainly kicks off the CD on a high note. The songwriting and production are top-notch and that carries throughout the collection.

When There's No Place Like Home is a lament for the less than ideal welcome our soldiers often return to after serving their country. Freebo doesn't place blame but simply recognizes the current economic and social uncertainties awaiting in place of a hero's welcome. That we, as a people, should be able to do better is left unsaid, but is certainly implied.

She Loves My Dog More Than Me will be a delight to anyone who has ever had a dog as a member of the family. Clever lyrics and a catchy chorus make you want to sing along out loud. This is one of those instantly appealing and memorable pop songs that you'll find yourself humming later that night.

My Personal GPS is an amusing modern love song to the technology that keeps us from getting lost. Maybe Freebo spends a bit too much time on the road?

Something To Believe is a beautiful song about the search for meaning in life. After listening to the song multiple times, I'm convinced that Freebo has found the meaning within the search itself that striving to live life upon the right path and being kind to others provides the very meaning one is looking for. Certainly not an easy path, but one well worth striving for.

On A Parallel Together continues the journey through life and love. The song, like much of the album, effectively brings together various musical elements: folk, country, pop, rock, and blues. What emerges is a potent song about life on the road, though not necessarily a road in the physical sense.

You and I

Living our lives,

Walkin' on down

On a parallel road together.

If Not Now When is a rock and roll flavored country song with enough bluesy elements to make Bonnie Raitt proud. The lyrics are a call to action, to follow your dreams and make something happen while there is still time.

In The Afternoon Heat is a funky R&B song with some very sweet electric guitar work by Fuzzbee Morse. The lyrics read like a diary entry of a special day that Freebo likens to being on an island paradise. The song is also a reminder to appreciate the good things in life.

I Don't Believe In Yesterday is the only cover on the collection.

This Dan Navarro song originally appeared on the Lowen & Navarro CD, Learning To Fall in 2008. Freebo does a respectful and faithful cover while still managing to make the song his own.

That's What Love Is returns to Freebo's search for meaning in life which ultimately must lead him back to Love's role in our lives. As he says quite plainly:

It lifts and inspires

All it touches

It's the best part

Of being alive,

That's what Love is.

The CD finishes up with Sometimes It's For Nothin', a rocker that has become a staple of Freebo's inspiring live performances. As usual, Freebo knows how to construct a song that is fun for an audience, while leaving us with a profound message. If the songs on this CD are a roadmap in a search of the meaning of life -- or possibly a life filled with meaning -- the resulting outcome is a positive one as the chorus rings with "I feel good." Certainly that's how I feel from listening to Freebo's latest collection.

This CD is certainly the culmination of Freebo's career as a singer and songwriter and demonstrates his adeptness with intelligent lyrics and clever song construction. It combines the folk leaning elements of his previous CD with some of the pop, rock and R&B sensibilities of his earlier efforts. Taken together, the result is a quality CD that will appeal to music lovers who come from a wide range of musical preferences.

Something To Believe is available on Poppabo Music. Order at www.freebomusic.com or CD Baby.

Russ runs a number of music related websites including the Jackson Browne Fans Page. He and his wife Julie have hosted Russ & Julie's House Concerts in Oak Park, California for more than fourteen years. One of the more established house concert series in southern California, Russ & Julie enjoy sharing their love of music with the community around them.