What makes a vocalist great? Occasionally, you can point to a specific contributory factor—a four-octave range, for example, or a distinctive falsetto—but most of the time, the source of greatness is elusive. You just know it when you hear it.
British folk rock artist Teddy Thompson (son of Richard and Linda Thompson) heard it in Dori Freeman, a singer from the Appalachian town of Galax, Virginia, who’d posted her music on Facebook. Thompson subsequently produced the now 24-year-old’s eponymous debut album (available February 5), and you don’t have to get more than a minute or two into it to hear what he heard in Freeman. Her unaffected, heartfelt, and intimate vocals will grab you that quickly.
Freeman’s compositions on this all-originals program ring true. As she says, “If you’re going to write songs that people want to keep listening to, then you can only write about exactly what you know.” That appears to be what she has done on this album, which contains a preponderance of songs about love found and lost.
The program is as musically varied as it is good. Pop- and country-spiced love songs like “You Say,” “Any Wonder,” and the gorgeous “Lullaby” seem like the sort of material Patsy Cline might be interpreting if she were alive today. Then there’s “Ain’t Nobody,” which Freeman delivers a cappella and which sounds like a companion to Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “16 Tons.” Finally, there are songs like “Tell Me” and “Fine Fine Fine,” which the singer imbues with enough rock and roll spirit to conjure up sixties girl groups.
I suspect you’ll be hearing a lot more from Dori Freeman. Meanwhile, hear this.