By Martine Ehrenclou
As soon as I clicked on the first couple of tracks of the Henrik Freischlader Trio’s 2016 album, Openness, I knew I’d struck gold. This is one bad**s power blues-rock trio with soul. And I use the term blues-rock lightly with this band. Their music is not pure blues. Henrik blends styles such as rock, blues and jazz with serious grooves. Talk about exquisite musicianship—the Henrik Freischlader Trio has that and a whole lot more.
Maybe some of you know of the Henrik Freischlader band. For those of you who don’t—listen up—this is one tight and talented trio with catchy, meaningful tunes. Versatile? Some might call this an album without a rudder but I call it an album with a selection of just plain great tunes that showcase this band’s versatility. It’s not just Henrik’s rich and soulful vocals that capture the breezy blues tunes as well as the hard driving rock songs. It’s also the masterful guitar playing, the solid and tight drumming, the skillful bass licks. It’s the whole package with the Henrik Freischlader Trio.
Completely new to me (recommended by Spotify), I soon discovered that the Henrik Freischlader Trio has been around for a while. From Germany, Henrik is a self-taught multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter, guitarist, producer and label owner with six studio albums and three live albums. He also started his own record label, Cable Car Records, in 2009. Henrik has also been a supporting act for Joe Bonamassa, B.B. King, Gary Moore, Peter Green, Jonny Winter, and others. Joe Bonamassa plays on one of Henrik’s earlier albums.
Openness, released in 2016, has 12 original tracks all written by Henrik Freischlader. Keep in mind there are no keyboards and it’s still a powerhouse album. The title track, is a rock tune with definite groove. The drummer is tight as is Henrik on guitar. That guitar solo simply must be heard.
Downshift into the next track, “Early Morning Blues” a boogie blues number with a nice feel. The textured emotional vocals from Henrik will pull you right in. Harmonies are in just the right places, and done beautifully. It’s a breezy tune to transform the end of a hard work day into relief.
“Business Straight” is a standout track on the album, with more elegance on the drums by Carl-Michael Grabinger. Henrik is feeling it on these vocals and the harmonies on the chorus lift this tune to new heights of rock with jazz overtones. The guitar in tandem with the bass, played by Alex Grube, creates a steady, rocking groove. Allow me to get to the dirty guitar solo played by Henrik with a definite influence of Jimi Hendrix—it’s pure genius. Really.
Starting off as more of a traditional blues number, “Master Plan” kicks into a rhythmic, jazzy blues number with Henrik’s soulful vocals gracing the song. The guitar/bass interplay with the vocals couldn’t be better. The clean guitar solo is magic. This is one great guitar player. The fact that Henrik sings like he does and plays guitar like this is like discovering a new Ferrari that’s selling for Fiat prices. Don’t forget that he is also a songwriter, plays guitar, bass, drums, percussion, Hammond organ and produces other artists.
The first ballad on the album, “Never Really Left You” has some nice chord professions and harmonies but the beat could use a little pick-me-up.
“Nobody Else to Blame,” a rock song, is a standout and may just be my favorite on the album. The opening, catchy bass run continues throughout the tune, creating great groove. Henrik’s vocals are scorching. This is a slamming rock song with darker guitar solos that pretty much blow my mind. The contrast of just vocals over the guitar/bass run with the hi hat on the verses and the full-on blast of the chorus, is exhilarating.
The next ballad, “Senses,” is one that works in every way. It opens with acoustic guitar and emotional vocals by Henrik. This is not your typical love song, perhaps because it isn’t sappy, but meaningful. This is the kind of love song I would want sung to me. The guitar solo is just as moving as the song itself—beautiful, clean tones and feel. Certainly, a longer, welcomed guitar solo too. The second part of the solo is a little dirtier, played with emotion.
I have not heard a band as versatile as the Henrik Freischlader Trio that possesses such exquisite musicianship all around. Their music is a treat to listen to. I’m sure you’ll agree.
“Techno” launches into a blues-rock song with groove and punch. There’s a certain jazz influence on this song that suits the bass/guitar runs. This is contemporary rock with some nice additions of jazz chords. The harmonies add to the jazz flavor on the verses and the bridge.
There’s a nice rhythm guitar lick that’s reminiscent of Michael Jackson’s, “Black or White.” The combination of the clean guitar lick with the dirty guitar solo is exceptional. That guitar solo has guts.
“Today I’m Gonna Change” is a blues tune with a B.B. King-ish intro. It’s another signature Henrik breezy, groove tune that’s akin to a summer evening watching the ocean roll in. It reminded me a little of what I love about Keb’ Mo’.
The second to last song, “High Expectations” is almost an ode to Stevie Ray Vaughan or Jimi Hendrix, or both. The guitar is simply outstanding. Henrik’s voice is chameleon-like, fitting neatly into blues, rock, whatever the songs call for. On this one, he throws himself into blues-rock with the necessary vocal scratch to match.
In case you hadn’t guessed by now, I highly recommend listening to Henrik Freischlader’s album, Openness, and certainly his older and brand new albums. I know I’m planning to.
Henrik Freischlader has a new album out, Blues for Gary, a tribute to Gary Moore. I’ll review that soon.
Henrik Freischlader website: http://www.henrikfreischlader.de/?lang=en
Amazon Music: https://www.amazon.com/Openness-Henrik-Freischlader-Trio/dp/B01B36T6UE