Denny Freeman
A Tone for My Sins
Dallas Blues Society 8904

If you like to piss off Austinites (and who doesnít?), remind them that their city's vaunted blues scene was virtually founded by Dallasites. From Big D came (among others) the brothers Vaughan and Denny Freeman, the latter one of the most artful guitarists in Texas history. Long a fixture of the Antoneís house band, where he accompanied blues legends galore, heís done some good recordings of his own, but this is, far and away, his best.

Freeman penned all 12 instrumentals. "Swing Set" and "Rhythm Method" are brisk, jazz-flavored blues tunes with guitar work rife with both tact and passion. Unlike players who squeeze away on high strings to the exclusion of all else, Freeman plays the whole guitar, offering burbly low-string work, classy comping and lead fillips that couldnít be jazzier if Herb Ellis did them. "Cat Fight" is a blues thatís slow, low, and well named, since the bottleneck work sounds just like a tomcat looking for a dog to mosh. "Stealiní Berries" is Freemanís tribute to í50s rock, with chunky chords and leads so greasy they leave marks.

The other tunes are generally catchy, covering a wide range of melodic traits while showcasing Freemanís concise, feisty guitar statements. Thatís Freemanís old bud, Joe Sublett, sax-blasting on "Aftershock," a churner that sees Freeman set aside his guitar for a few choruses to play some leads on one of those six-string basses Texans are so fascinated with. "Itís a Love Thing" is lilting, funk-lite a la early Crusaders, way different than the headlong "Donít Stop Now" (on which Freeman sounds like heís playing slide with a vacuum cleaner).

But both have a very visual, almost palpably cinematic air. Itís tempting to say that since Freeman now lives in L.A. he might be writing with an eye toward movies, but itís probably more accurate to say that in Tarantino Nation, movies have started sounding like Freeman.

ó Tim Schuller

This page and all contents are © 1998 by Blues Access,
Boulder, CO, USA.