By: Matthew Warnock
The Blues is a vast and rich musical genre that has proved to be one of America’s lasting musical contributions to the global community. After being birthed and raised in the U.S., the blues has since spread out to welcome musicians from all over the world to its flock, producing some of the most memorable and lasting recordings and musical moments of the past century. While the blues has spread out geographically, unfortunately when it comes to the musicians that play this great music, the vast majority are male, with only a small percentage of blues musicians being women. UK guitarist, singer and songwriter Clare Free aims to help break that glass ceiling as she makes her presence felt through her live shows and recordings, the most recent being Dust and Bones. An accomplished lead guitarist, Free’s music shows that women can rip just as much as their male counterparts, and alongside other artists such as Donna Grantis, is helping to bring a much welcomed spotlight to the great women musicians on today’s blues scene.
The album features a nice mix of traditional blues grooves and funkier, more modern tracks that showcases a wide swath of Free’s musical background and tastes. Tracks such as “Can’t Slow Down” and “Small Miracles” are riff-driven songs that fall into the more traditional blues realm as far as their construction and groove. Both tracks feature killer guitar solos by Free, as she brings to light her ability to be melodic in her lines, while building intensity and using her chops when the time is right. For someone that has the ability to tear things up, Free shows a welcomed amount of restraint with her chops, choosing the right moments to bring them to table instead of relying on them for the majority of her licks and phrases.
On the funkier side, “Little Miss Jealousy” is a fun track that digs into a funky rhythm-guitar groove, driving the beat forward as Free floats her vocal lines over top of the solid rhythmic foundation. During her solo on this track, Free takes a clean approach to her tone for the first half, before stomping on her distortion pedal to raise the energy level in the second half of the solo. Again, this is a moment where Free’s musicianship allows her to lead the listener through her solos, rather than playing them at the audience, and it is a big reason for the overall success of the album as a whole.
Dust and Bones is a strong release for the British Blueswoman. The songs are well-written, feature an nice amount of diversity and the playing is intense and melodic at the same time, all things that fans of the blues will no doubt enjoy.