Ever since I saw Freddie Stevenson perform for the first time over the summer, I have not been able to stop listening to his music. I had never heard of him before seeing that show, but was told by a friend that he wasn’t one to miss. She was absolutely right, as I completely fell in love with his music right then and there. He performed the entirety of his new album, “The Darkening/The Brightening,” which he recorded in solitude in Scotland. I had a chance to talk with Freddie about the album, and he says, “There is a purity and innocence to it, almost a childlike quality, a real sense of play.” These folksy, acoustic guitar based tunes are beautifully written, with stunning lyrics, rich with imagery. When I asked Freddie about what inspired him to create it the album, Freddie said, “I wanted to make something that felt like a whole different world you could live in for a while. We hear so much fragmented music every day, snippets coming from here and there and the shuffle culture. I wanted to make something that was an integral whole.” Freddie discussed the tuning of his guitar being quite different, using a variation of open E, which opened many new melodic doors for him. Through his exploration of this tuning, he began to see melodies appearing, and he wrote many songs. Freddie said, “I made ‘The Brightening’ first and then it was my co-producer, Mike Scott’s suggestion to pair it with ‘The Darkening’. It made sense because ‘The Brightening’ goes chromatically up the scale and ‘The Darkening,’ back down.”
On Tuesday evening, Freddie graced us with his talent at Rockwood Music Hall, stage 3, in a wonderfully intimate show. He began his show on the electric guitar, opening with “Rags Of Rhyme.” This was a new track he wrote, ironically, about not being able to stop writing songs. He followed up with “Dying To Turn You On,” which was bluesy as hell. His voice is so smooth and versatile. He played a few others such as “Like Something Beautiful,” which was very somber, but utterly gorgeous. Soon after, Jessie Kilguss joined Freddie on stage on the harmonium and on vocal harmonies, as Freddie, much to my delight, picked up his acoustic guitar to play a few songs from “The Darkening/The Brightening.” As he mentioned that he sometimes does, he opened that section of the show with “That Dawn,” whose catchy melody and simple strum pattern feels like a breath of fresh air, as he croons “I need to see that dawn, I need to see that dawn. I’ve been living in the dark so long. I really need to see that dawn.” Freddie likes to play “That Dawn” due to its “strong melodic hook and the yearning, striving melody, which matches the sentiment of the lyrics, of reaching up towards the light.”
He followed with two of my favorites, “The Rope Maker’s Daughter” and “Loretta,” which both have more of a fingerpicked feel. Jessie’s harmonies were beautiful and the harmonium added a very full element to the complete sound. He delivered “Thus Wept The Angel,” “Until The Devil Gets Paid,” “Lowlands Girl,” “Hellhound Holly,” and “One For The Landlocked Sailor.” While Freddie was tuning his guitar, he spoke more about the tuning of is guitar on the album, and asked if anyone in the audience played guitar. Of course, I cheered, as he looked at me and explained the tuning to the crowd, and hilariously said to me, “I’ll teach it to you, but I’ll have to charge.” I will be forever grateful to Freddie Stevenson for quoting Kelis’ lyrics and directing those lyrics at me. He closed out that section of the show with “Searching The Heavens,” which completely melted the entire crowd with its lyrical potency as well as its melodic charm.
After Kilguss left the stage, Freddie brought on his friend, James Maddock for a couple of songs, to accompany him on electric guitar. Maddock’s epically bluesy solos were a joy to listen to. Next, the two of them rocked out “Unsatisfied,” which completely changed the vibe in the room. Freddie can write it all, and he can surely perform it all too. To close out the show, Maddock left the stage and Kilguss came back on for “Heart Shaped Stone.” The lyrics resonated with me completely, as Freddie sang, “I am on my way in the softly falling rain. My head is full of dreams, and I’m ready to start again.” I heard him singing those words, and felt every single one as he sang ever so passionately. Freddie is clearly full of passion, and he truly delivers a high quality performance every time I see him. I was completely moved by his show, once again, and I can’t wait for the next one. He never fails to stun. If you haven’t checked out “The Darkening/The Brightening” yet, I have never so highly recommended an album in my life. Please take a listen. One last thing Freddie said that really stuck with me was, “Living in New York City, every day we put on masks for different situations. We play characters. This is fantastic for writing too, but this album is unmasked.”
Article: Alex Feigin