They're trying to relive some of our best
moments from the '80s, from forgotten bands that everyone loved but never listen to
anymore, like Steve Winwood, David and David and Michael McDonald-era Doobie Brothers
I immediately had an affinity
for this band upon receiving this 4-song demo CD in the mail. Their name is the same as
the dirt-bike trail I grew up by in Omaha. We called it "Freedirt," because
there was a large sign on top of the highest mud-dune that said, of course, "Free
dirt." So it became a euphemism popular in my youth, like, "Dude, I'll meet you
up at Freedirt after school." And so on... I have no idea what the name could
possible mean to the rest of the world, but it's catchy.
Just like this demo.
Freedirt is a Seattle-based five-piece consisting of players from
throughout the West Coast and Midwest, including Austin, L.A., Seattle and Omaha. Bassist
Brad Dienstbier I have to assume is the same Brad Dienstbier that used to live in Omaha
and play with Echo Farm, a band that I think broke up last year (no one seems to know for
sure, at least I don't, though I know they haven't performed here in forever).
Freedirt guitarist/vocalist and principle songwriter Perry Fulfs says the band "wants
to liberate ourselves from the confines of genre and bring our perspective to everyone for
a listen," then follows with a sentence basically categorizing the band as
alternative easy listening.
Well, I don't think there's anything alternative about Freedirt. The
band isn't trying to create a new sound, they're trying to relive some of our best moments
from the '80s, from forgotten bands that everyone loved but never listen to anymore, like
Steve Winwood, David and David and Michael McDonald-era Doobie Brothers. When they're not
jazzy jamming they're slightly southern, but hardly a step away from any style you've
heard before on "non-alternative" FM.
Track one, Backseat Folks, is a loungy, chiming
keyboard bop with a shuffle acoustic guitar, understated vocals by either Fulfs or
Mark Wolford, (both credited with guitar/vocals, but the bio implies that that basso tenor
is Fulfs'), and some terrific uncredited gospel-style female backing vocals that are
underused. A pleasant, though not particularly interesting sort of throwaway track.
There's no hook to remember the song by, so it comes off more as a jam than a song.
The heart of the demo begins on the next track, Sanderson
Fussbucket, a laid-back jam with a terrific chorus, and tight backing vocals. On the
chorus, Fulfs' voice is an absolute spitting image dead ringer for David Baerwald of David
and David fame, one of my favorite -- and one of the era's most underappreciated --
vocalists. Um yeah, that's a good thing.
Southern Thoughts cranks it up a few notches more without
losing any tunefulness, in a Black Crows sort of way, but a lot better than that rather
stale band. (Note to the band: Make this A-side of a single, with Sanderson Fussbucket
as the flipside). Perfect FM radio fodder, with an terrific undeniable sing-along hook.
Many a Man closes out the demo sounding a lot like the last
Son Volt or Sixteen Horsepower effort -- lots of harmonica, lots of distorted vocals. Very
southern-fried and jammy.
Overall the recording quality of this CD demo is superior, as good
as any finished commercially produced CD I've heard.
The overall verdict: This is one of the best demos I've heard in a
long time. I can't imagine this not turning the heads (or ears) of some sad, be-suited
record executive looking for the next big thing that doesn't happen to be a white-rapping
Goon Rock outfit. Fact is Freedirt will appeal more to the late-20s to mid-30s listener
who are tired of Dave Matthews and Matchbox 20.
Copyright © 2000 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.