Daniel “Freebo” Friedberg is a decorated singer/songwriter with an impressive session/sideman history, including a ten-year stint playing bass and touring with Bonnie Raitt. Other collaborators include John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers, CSN, Maria Muldaur, Ringo Starr, Michelle Shocked, Neil Young, Loudon Wainwright III, and Dr. John. He’s also a formidable tuba player.
The last few years have seen Freebo launching into a successful solo career, having released four solo albums since 1999. There’s no quick-and-easy way to pin down a singular “Freebo sound,” as his diverse solo material is suitably colored by his work with all of the above A-list names. As such, his work boasts a seasoned blend of blues, rock and folk—but closer listening reveals undertones of dixieland, reggae, and Broadway musicals.
His Nimbit store offerings include a multitude of sponsorship opportunities (you can even buy “Executive Producer” credit on his next record!) two singles, and four full-lengths, including the canine tribute album, Dog People.
Chicago’s Don Conoscenti is a musician’s musician through-and-through who enjoyed a supportive musical upbringing. While now best known as a decorated singer/songwriter in acoustic circles—he’s a winner of the Rocky Mountain Folks Fest Songwriting Competition and was a National Academy of Songwriters’ Acoustic Artist of the Year finalist—fact is the guy cut his teeth by learning drums before learning guitar, and established his acoustic claim after many years spent as a “die-hard rocker.” Never one to be bound by the limits of genre loyalty, Don is also an accomplished flautist and vocalist.
His “few rules” mentality also applies to his approach to the guitar—he’s the only guitarist I’ve ever seen use multiple capos on a guitar, including partial capos. If you’re a guitar player, good luck trying to figure out how to play his songs just by listening to them. For you he released the hilariously titled Capo Abuse and Guitar Techniques video.
Don’s rock’n’roll beginnings have proven a major asset in his ability to stand apart in an ocean of acoustic-driven songwriters. The rockin’ influences in Don’s work aren’t worn on his sleeve, but instead bubble up through the cracks in a much more subtle manner than is typically associated with rock music. So far, he’s nine self-released albums into his career.
On his latest release. High Desert Sessions, Don turned to PreSonus Studio One to make the entire record on his own. Of the experience, he says, “Thanks to recording software like PreSonus’ Studio One Professional, I can now produce, track, orchestrate, mix, master and immediately upload the finished product to Soundcloud and my Nimbit Store, which then allows me to sell it through my website and social media pages within minutes of mastering. It wasn’t easy to learn how to do all that, but there’s a lot to love about the end result of that process. Thanks for listening and look for a summer 2015 release featuring some heavy hitting guest artists including Ellis Paul and Grammy-winning artists Paul Buckmaster, Bill Miller and Lloyd Maines.”
While Boston’s Vance Gilbert is known largely to singer-songwriter circles, to say he draws strictly from the book of Guthrie would be something of a disservice. While his lengthy discography bears many acoustic affairs, there’s a lot of blues in here. Add the fact that Vance got his start as a jazz singer—you can REALLY hear it in his inimitable, vulnerable vocal tones—and you have a unique blend of influences that create something simultaneously familiar and new. While this would be enough for some artists to get by on,Vance also brings significant guitar and lyrical chops to the table. The Boston Globe puts it better than I could, however, when of 2000’s Somerville Live they espoused, “Young songwriters should study this disc the way law students cram for bar exams.”
Turned out that it wasn’t just young songwriters who took note—over the years, Arlo Guthrie and Anita Baker both chose Vance for their support slot on the road, and he spent a year and a half touring in support of the late George Carlin.
Vance’s Nimbit store is a credit to his prolific recording and release schedule—somehow on top of a busy touring schedule, the man has managed to release a dozen albums since kicking off his career as a humble open mic night regular. Well… as humble as one can be when blowing minds. Some are available as digital download, others as CDs, some as both. Noteworthy among them is Side of the Road, a collaboration with fellow Nimbit torchbearer and close friend Ellis Paul.
One listen to Lori’s voice and you’ll understand why she’s an award-winner; she was recognized in 2010’s Great American Songwriting Contest, and received Pulse Magazine’s Best Female Vocalist award in 2011 and 2012. Evocative of renowned songbirds like Sarah McLachlan and Joni Mitchell, Lori’s warm, emotive, and pitch-perfect voice conveys vulnerability and confidence in simultaneous and equal measure.
Add capable multi-instrumentalist Fred Abatelli to the mix and you’ve got something of a quiet powerhouse on your hands. The instrumentation on the four CDs available on their Nimbit store is largely piano and acoustic guitar driven, making for a collection of songs that are absolutely perfect for unwinding after a hard days’ work.
Their recordings reward repeat listenings through judicious use of vocal harmony and divergent instrumentation—but never too much of either. Lori’s voice and lyrics are the real stars of the show, here, and the arrangements sensibly give them both plenty of space. Given the duo’s thematic focus on empathy, it seems just that a portion of all of their CD sales go to support NEADS—a nonprofit organization that provides independence to people who are deaf or have a disability through the use of canine assistance
Of particular note, Lori is maximizing the potential of Nimbit’s Calendar feature. Her show listings include not only the critical information of where and when, but even screen caps of the venue’s location on Google Maps to help attendees get their bearings.
A smart move. Also included is venue contact info, links to ticket purchases, and Lori’s own thoughts about the venues and festivals she’ll be performing in, which is a nice personal touch, likely appreciated by venue owners—a little goodwill can go a long way toward repeat bookings. Lori has clearly created some demand for her shows and is planning ahead, as her calendar has bookings well into October of 2015!
Cards, meet table: Roomful of Blues formed in 1967, and are currently celebrating their 45–year anniversary. Think about that for a second—how many bands can you name that have been around for 45 years and are still kicking?
Hmm, let’s see. Motorhead? Nope, formed in ’75. Cock Sparrer? Close at 1972. The Rolling Stones? Well, they formed in 1962, so they check out OK… but that means when it comes to finding a contemporary for Roomful of Blues, The Stones are the only fair comparison?
Seriously. The Stones? The Stones? Yep. Wow.
While lineup changes are to be expected in an outfit of this vintage, Roomful of Blues is currently a horn-heavy octet fronted by powerhouse vocalist Phil Pemberton. They’ve been known to draw from blues of all shades, and as a result have developed a sound that incorporates swing, soul, and some New Orleans flavor that keeps even blues aficionados guessing as to what the band will do next. Critics have taken note as well, and to date the band has earned five Grammy Award nominations, seven Blues Music Awards noms—including a win.
45 Live was just released on July 30, 2013, in celebration of the aforementioned anniversary. The band packed a three-day party at Mantunuck, Rhode Islands’ The Ocean Mist, and played their hearts out evey night, recording every note. The best performances from the anniversary show make up the 45 Live disc—which sounds a lot better than most live records, BTW.
I understand that some might argue that it’s not about the years, it’s about the mileage—and if so, RoB is the blues’ equivalent of an unstoppable Mack truck that has steadily, reliably been shipping music lovers up and down Highway 95 for a lifetime. The Roomful of Blues Nimbit store boasts a handful of T-shirts, but the real star here is the discography—SEVENTEEN full-length albums available via CD or HD download! In the time I’ve been writing these Nimbit Artist of the Week Posts, that’s the most I’ve seen a band offer. It sets the record for number of records.