For a man who only started playing guitar because the neighbours complained about his drumming Henrik Freischlader has become something of a guitar legend, not just here in Germany but, through appearances with BB King and recently Tedeschi Trucks, worldwide. It’s almost a shame, because there is a whole lot more than just guitar licks to the man as his latest disc Openness reveals.
Many readers will already be fans of Henrik and aware that this is something of a ‘comeback’ album. The previous studio CD, 2013’s ‘Night Train to Budapest’, was as always well produced and well played but to my ears anyway, lacked a spark, that extra something that makes a song stick in the mind or heart. I’m glad to say that with his new band and new enthusiasm, the new release has not just a spark, but a roaring flame.
The CD cover itself is a clue to what you find on the disc inside. A plain band portrait on the front and just the band members names and their instruments on the inside flap. I’m not familiar with either bassist Alex Grube or Drummer Carl-Michael Grabinger but they really do a great job of creating the backdrop for Henrik. Notably this is a trio. Not a keyboard player on the cover or indeed on the disc.
It does strike me that the guitars on most of the tracks and indeed also the vocals seem to have been recorded separately from the rest of the band but it certainly isn’t evident on the recordings themselves which sound like a tight trio in the studio together. Both Grabinger and Grube have an eye on the groove at all times. The music is what counts and Freischlader’s aim was perhaps inspired by the late Master BB King, that of playing only the notes necessary ‘Less is more’ is the philosophy and with the trio set-up it really pays dividends.
I’m sure Henrik wouldn’t deny the influence of power trios past in his playing. Bands like Hendrix’, Cream and Taste are at the core of the discs opener – aptly titled ‘Openness’. The overall mood though is a spectrum of Blues styles that cover the classic walking variety in ‘Early Morning Blues’ and straight ahead boogie ‘Lord have mercy’, the big ballad ‘Never really left you’ and the pared down to the bone ‘Senses’.
There are some unexpected gems musically on here too. ‘Nobody else to blame’ is almost a steal from the Police rhythmically. ‘Today I’m gonna change’ kicks off like BB King but is a positive blues (yes it exists!). With it’s declaration that “Today I’m gonna change yesterday’s plan for tomorrow” it could be the whole explanation behind the change of band and temporary break from the stage in song.
A favourite is ‘Techno’ and it shows that the guitar hero (and the guitar on this CD is held very much in check) is a pretty mean lyric writer too in what isn’t his native tongue. “We’re so techno, gotta be a little more rock n roll” he sings and that’s really the philosophy behind the new CD and indeed the new enthusiasm of Henrik Freischlader – a need to return to the basics. The Henrik Freischlader Trio’s ‘Openness’ certainly shows the way! An excellent disc that comes recommended to Freischlader fans and to those who though his best was already on record. On this evidence It may just be beginning.
NOTE: A few Tickets for the trio on Tuesday (12 May) at Bonn Harmonie are still available at the time of writing but going fast…
(all photos from 2014)