Henrik Freischlader - House In The Woods

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If ‘House in The Woods’ isn’t quite a fully conceptualised album title, then Henrik Freischlader’s sense of introspection and ongoing search for a retreat offers a resonant statement of his current mindset.

The funky, smoking grooves and concise solos that rise elegantly from some well crafted intricately layered, mid-tempo works of sculptured art, also reflect the self reliance and the fierce independent streak of an artist who is very much his own man.

‘House in the Woods’ is an organic, laid back rock-blues journey where nothing is forced and feel is everything. But while it’s hard to argue with the deeply embedded grooves and intuitive interlocked playing, the essential nuances of ‘House in the Woods’ are not always immediately apparent to the untutored listener.

The fast rising Wuppertal guitarist, songwriter, producer and multi instrumentalist may be influenced by Gary Moore, but unlike his hero his potential niche lies not in climactic solo’s and incendiary shredding, but rather in a slow burning blues fuse.  He prefers to take the long route home and fastidiously works towards realising his goal.

This is best evidenced on the workmanlike funky groove of ’1999′, which just before the 2:30 minute mark, suddenly ignites with a wah-wah led solo that could have come from the early 70′s Zappa guitar manual. As brief as it is incisive, the solo offers a telling glimpse of Henrik’s subtle grasp of dynamics.

Perhaps the reason for his understated style is that he realises the limitations of his warm but weary, limited vocal range, which at its best is not unlike Peter Green at his best.  But while his deep rooted grooves are well suited to his vocals, some of the material labours to get beyond the pedestrian. ‘Breaking My Heart Again’ for example, is a ballad which veers too close to formulaic MOR while the dirgy ‘With The Flow’ sounds almost like a loose soundcheck jam with a call and response chorus stuck on top.

Far better is the propulsive riff led ‘Sisters’ and the waltz feel of ’2 Young Lovers’ which matches evocative lyrics with a gentle organ led arrangement. The song also benefits from rich harmonies and a wistful Knopfler style lead vocal. The refreshing sense of space, time, and restraint focuses on the sumptuous melody and makes it one of the best songs on the album. It could also offer Henrik some deserved radio play.

The closing ‘Would You Help Me’, further explores the balladic format, but with a Joe Cocker vocal. The tick-tock percussion nicely offsets some jazz tinged blues guitar phrases that alternate between subtle distortion and a crystal tone to cut a swathe through the after hours feel of the track. Not so much Gary Moore perhaps, as the enduring influence of Roy Buchanan, as Henrik fills his ‘House in the Woods’ with a real sense of feel and purpose that suggests he has more than enough in reserve to carve out his own niche. ****

Review by Pete Feenstra

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