Isaac Freeman & the Bluebloods,
Beautiful Stars
(Lost Highway, 2002)

Gospel music is "root" music, the beginning or source for music yet to come. The human voice is a root instrument. It produces natural accompaniment, without strings or brass fittings to enhance or detract from the words being sung. And when the voice is a beautiful bass and the gospel as old as time and straight from the heart, the resulting music is powerful. Add a group of first-rate blues musicians and a couple of golden-voiced backup singers, and the results are heavenly.

All the songs, except one, are traditional gospel songs taken from Freeman's childhood memories. They are songs, performed a cappella by his mother and her church choir, that he grew up on -- songs of despair, pain, loss, loneliness and heartache as well as love, redemption, trust, faith, forgiveness, joy, exaltation and peace. Each has its own story, but all convey the message that help is available for the asking. To introduce "Don't Drive Your Children Away," Isaac explains how he lost his mother as a young boy and sought guidance through prayer: "Dear Lord, I'm begging don't drive your child away because I'm meek and I'm humble down in my heart." Then there's the toe-tapping, can't sit still "Jesus is on the Mainline" that suggests "Jesus is on the mainline, tell Him what you want. If you seek your soul's salvation, tell Him what you want. Call Him up, call Him up and tell Him what you want." It's easy to envision a church choir swaying to and fro, singing these songs with the look of rapture on their faces.

Isaac "Dickie" Freeman is known as one of the most influential bass singers in 20th century music and has been a member of and musical director for one of the best-known gospel groups of all time, the Fairfield Four. He is included on the soundtrack for the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou and appeared in the film singing "You Gotta Go That Lonesome Valley" in the part of a gravedigger. This is his first solo project. He is accompanied by the highly acclaimed Nashville blues band the Bluebloods as well as sisters Ann McCrary and Regina Brown, who provide the back-up vocals. Together they have produced a soul-soothing, heart-lifting album guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

- Rambles
written by Sheree Morrow
published 26 July 2003

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