Guitarist Steve Freund established himself as part of the Chicago scene several decades ago working with blues legends like Sunnyland Slim. Relocated to the San Francisco area, he has matured into a terrific blues guitarist, rooted in the classic Chicago blues (one hears tinges in his playing that evokes Muddy Waters, big Broonzy, Luther Tucker and others, but he has mixed in with a jazzy style that also shows his listening has extended to Grant Green, Wes Montgomery and others. He has just issued his first album in six years, “Lonesome Flight” (9 Below Records), with some originals and several choice covers.
The disc opens with a tribute to Big Bill Broonzy, “Hey Mr. Bill,” with some deft guitar evoking Broonzy’s masterful swinging style with a lyric asking Big Bill to play the blues as Steve feels so lowdown. and his music helps Steve more than Bill can realize. The title track has tinges of Muddy and Luther Tucker in Freund’s playing backing about hearing his father died and Steve Freund packed his suitcase, went out into the night and caught that Lonesome Flight. The backing band includes some pretty fine harp from Scot Brenton. “Boogie in the Rain,” has an easy shuffle groove with the backing including droning guitar and harp one that lends this a sound like it was a tribute to the original version of Canned Heat with Henry Vestine and Alan Wilson. What’s nice about this performance is how relaxed the groove is. “LaMorr is Blue,” is a jazzy instrumental with Freund using an box to get an organ-like tone, while “Still Pickin’” is based on Elmore James’ “Pickin’ the Blues.” which allows Freund to pay homage to James as well as Earl Hooker with his playing here. John Brim’s “Tough Times,” receives a lyrical updating with references to lacking health insurance and bills being long overdue and Brenton contributes more fine harp here. “On Highway 101” is a rocking number (musically a reworking of the “Rollin’ & Tumblin’ & “Meet Me in the Bottom”) with a lyric about riding to the West Coast with Sunnyland Slim. He does a more than credible version of King Curtis’ “Let Me Down Easy” (Freddie King did the original), followed by a nice shuffle rendition of mandolinist, Johnny Young’s “Keep On Drinking,” further illustrating Freund’s ability to take a tune and make it his own.
Freund may not be a great singer, but he is ably delivers the songs in a genuine sounding manner. His fine playing and the understated backing by his find band anchored around bassist Burton Winn and drummer Robi Bean, is responsible for much of the success of the performances. Five selections, including “Still Pickin’,” “Tough Times,” “Let Me Down Easy,” and “Keep On Drinking,” have Randy Bermudes on bass, and former Robert Lockwood drummer, June Core. All these elements make Freund’s “Lonesome Flight” a noteworthy new release for blues enthusiasts.
The review copy was provided by the record label. It is available from cdbaby, amazon and other sources.