You could hear huge sighs of relief in guitar shops all over Britain earlier this year when Henrik Freischlader announced his return to playing and recording music. His playing’s very accessible to all, but guitarists just can’t get enough of him. Whatever the reasons for his extended sabbatical he’s come back firing on all cylinders with a great new album “Openness” and he’s now coming back to the UK to play some dates as the Henrik Freischlader Trio with Alex Grube (bass) and Carl-Michael Grabinger (drums) working in the engine room. His playing alone will have the guitarists in the audience salivating, but he has another secret weapon; he has a very, very good blues/soul voice. This isn’t just a guitarist who sings a bit, this is someone who’s a guitarist and a singer and he’s completely at home in both areas.
If you want to see him in the UK in 2016, here are your choices:
Wednesday September 21 The Borderline, London
Thursday, September 22 ABC, Glasgow
Friday, September 23 The Flowerpot, Derby
Saturday, September 24 Yardbirds Club, Grimsby
Sunday, September 25 Komedia Studio, Brighton
It’s only a couple of years ago that Henrik Freischlader announced his retirement, going out with an album and a farewell tour in 2014. Since then he’s concentrated on production duties for his Cable Car Records label, releasing albums by Tommy Schneller and Layla Zoe. The good news for guitar fans is that he’s back, with the new album “Openness” and a tour to support the album. He’s back to working in the power trio format with Carl-Michael Grabinger (drums) and Alex Grube (bass) and sounding as good as ever. There are some clues in the lyrics as to the reasons for the sabbatical but, hey, it’s good to have him back; there aren’t many players who can boast his technique, power and soul.
The album’s opening song, “Openness”, sets the scene perfectly with a huge funky riff, a rasping blues vocal and a lyric about escaping from the past (he’s ‘overdue to be back on track’) and a squalling solo beginning and ending with waves of feedback. There’s a downshift for the second song, “Early Morning Blues”, which shuffles along through some interesting chord runs with a languorous vocal and a clean jazz tone for the solo. You know you’re in the presence of a master, and there’s confirmation when the ‘dust my broom’ reference heralds a blistering slide solo in “Lord Have Mercy” and in the chugging, overdriven riff of “Business Straight”, leading up to a wah wah solo that builds through slow chord runs to single notes flying out in squalls and flurries.
The album’s next three songs develop the lyrical themes of rebirth, redemption and responsibility that permeate the album, particularly the jazzy “Master Plan” with its unpredictable solo and rhythmic switch and walking bass towards the end of the song. The slow ballad “Never Really Left You” demonstrates Henrik’s powerful soul voice and could be addressed to a lover or the audience he gave up for a short time, while the riff-driven “Nobody Else to Blame” talks about ‘falling in love with me’.
“Techno” is a plea to bring back more of the raw edges and imperfections to life, driven along by a massive riff and emphasising the rawness with a clanging, atonal solo and “High Expectations” is a power trio blues about the difficulty of living with a professional musician, while the funky “Today I’m Gonna Change” channels the great Albert Collins with jazzy chords and a cleanly-picked solo. The two slower songs towards the end of the album, “Senses” and the resonator-backed “His Love” suggest that Henrik’s found a meaning or a purpose, whether it’s a god or something else to believe in and give meaning to his life.
Whatever he’s found, it’s working really well for him. “Openness” shows all of Henrik’s versatility as a guitar player, singer and songwriter. Welcome back; we’ve missed you.
“Openness” is out now on Cable Car Records (CCR 0311-47).