It’s been a while since a Jamie Freeman disc slid through the letterbox, his last release being 2013’s 100 Miles From Home. Despite being a familiar name down south in the UK Americana world as a musician and a behind the scenes mover and shaker he’s not well kent up here which is a bit of a pity. 100 Miles From Home (recorded with his band The Jamie Freeman Agreement) roamed around jangled power pop, English folk and dark Americana creating what should really be considered as a bit of a lost classic. There are certainly elements of the first two on this EP but there’s also a healthy dash of patchouli scented psychedelia with Freeman admitting that several of the songs are influenced by his favourite sixties bands.
The EP was recorded in Nashville and the UK with The Jamie Freeman Agreement playing on the UK songs while the Nashville tracks feature Larkin Poe and The Wild Ponies but aside from the opening number you’d be hard pressed to tell which was which. Hasia Dreams is that opening song and it’s a wonderful evocation of English psychedelia, the backwards guitars and raga rock scales reminiscent of bands such as Tintern Abbey and (the UK) Nirvana. It’s a delicious listen with Lucy Powell’s voice weaving around Freeman’s vocals and while it may seem like a lysergically influenced song it’s actually a pretty grim tale of a refugee’s perilous journey fleeing Syria as she clings to happier days in her dreams.
Shiprock is another song which visits childhood memories although here Freeman’s template is The Who as he offers a Townshend like exploration of a dysfunctional family with the prodding keyboards recalling the synth additions to The Who’s Next album. With its muscular guitars and punchy propulsion the song soars towards another psychedelic moment on its bridge before climaxing with wailing guitar and an eventual sonic breakdown. You really need to listen to this one with the volume way up. The shimmer of Rum and Smoke then wafts into view and its clear by now that Freeman is exploring in these songs the adult influences on the psyches of their children as here he inhabits the mind of the child of an alcoholic father. Incredibly poignant, the song clothes the child’s formative memories in a bittersweet delivery which at times recalls early Traffic.
Damaged children can find redemption and it’s tempting to see the last two songs as evidence of this. Make Do With England has the protagonist finding a partner who is helping him to cope despite his frailties with Freeman singing, “Baby you taught me how to care, yeah, well I taught you how to swear.” It’s not all plain sailing as he thinks the idea that she would marry him must mean she’s crazy while their union doesn’t always lead to bliss with the title of the song (I think) a nod to that old adage of lying back and thinking of England. Whatever, Freeman again sets the song against a magnificent and rousing delivery which slowly builds in grandeur from its folky beginning to the swell of guitars and percussion towards the end. There is a happy ending as Freeman and the band throw out a rollicking almost rockabilly number on Wedding Ring and a New Tattoo which sounds like a cross between Dwight Yoakam and Ian Dury believe it or not.
The only quibble here is that there’s only five songs. Hopefully now that Freeman has divested himself of his record store in Lewes we can expect to hear more of him in the future. Fingers crossed.
Hasia Dreams is available here