Album Review of Reverend Freakchild: Illogical Optimism (Treated and Released Records)
This is the sixth album for this cosmic musical preacher and, perhaps, his most ambitious. It’s a three-disc set that is a quirky cross-section of some of the best psychedelic blues rock and acoustic country/folk this side of Detroit’s Howling Diablos or classic Country Joe and The Fish.
You might say this is kind of a concept package in that each disc seems to have a central focus to it. Disc One is entitled “Odds, Ends and Other Amazingness” and is probably a pretty comprehensive representation of what Reverend Freakchild is all about. He does everything from John Lennon’s “Imagine” and Bob Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower” to full-on gospel, with “I Still Have Joy” and “Cryin’ Holy Unto the Lord.” There are also more traditional slide guitar anthems too like “Shark Boogie” and “Yer Blues.” But one would be advised to use that term “traditional” rather cautiously when referencing the good reverend, as nothing he does is by rote. He’s got a keen ear for nuance and humor and can change up a familiar song arrangement and give it a whole new character and spin.
Disc Two gets a little weirder and basically features a dozen variations on his song “All I Got is Now.” Each track renames the song a little bit and, with that, each is a different version, from funk to punk to reggae to acoustic. There are even versions sung in German and French. Remember when various ‘60s bands like The Beatles would do alternate takes of their hits in different languages in addition to English? But I digress! This is an intriguing concept, but a tad self indulgent at the same time. But then, maybe that’s the point!
Disc Three presents something that kind of references Disc One. It is called “Kairos” and is the works of an artist — apparently one that Reverend Freakchild admires —named Ramblin’ Jennings. There are eight songs here that can best be described by what appears on the CD itself: “It’s gospel blues, with declamatory vocals, wailing blues harmonica and slide boogie guitar.” It appears that Freakchild is a bit of a talent scout here and presents to the world an artist very much in his own likeness.
To be fair, it’s really hard to put a finger on what Reverend Freakchild does. He can play a mean Dobro, electric and acoustic guitar for sure and has a soulful voice to back it up. And his original writing and selection of material is interesting and progressive in a curious sort of way. He certainly does not fit the mold of a “traditional” bluesman (there’s that word again!), but it’s obvious he wouldn’t have it any other way.