For some time now I have been retiring to a small highland town in the near countryside whenever I need a rest from the big city life. On one such occasion a few years ago, I took the opportunity to clear a backlog of promising artists to check out, one of them being German guitarist Henrik Freischlader. As a result, I spent most of that week enjoying the cool weather, sipping cappuccino, and listening to Freischlader’s brand of elegant Euro blues. Since then, I have been following his career, regretting that he is still relatively unknown outside Europe. Of course, this is due in part to Freischlader’s unwillingness to compromise his style in favor of mainstream trends, an approach made quite clear on Recorded By Martin Meinschäfer II, his latest album.
Infusing his sophisticated blues sound with substantial doses of rock, soul, and funk, Freischlader has been an exponent of the genre for nearly 20 years, boasting a strong studio output and a distinguished reputation as an incandescent live performer. Being another important chapter in this outstanding career, Meinschäfer II expands on the musicality and themes crafted in its predecessor – released 13 years ago – while not failing to bring fresh perspectives and soundscapes.
Except for the Hammond organ and keyboard parts (provided by the talented Moritz Fuhrhop), Freischlader recorded all the instruments, focusing on a selection of 13 warm stripped-down original compositions, drenched in a vintage, live music atmosphere. The laidback blues rockers “Free” and “Aware Of Things” open the album, but Freischlader still sounds somewhat inhibited on both numbers. We are soon treated, however, to the inspired mid-paced groover “Turn Back The Clock”. Deeply rooted in a prominent bass line, the infectious track has the german six-stringer throwing out lyrics such as ” I don’t wanna please everybody, I don’t wanna be on the scene” — his convincing delivery adding to the song’s statement-like nature. The rock-based “Rule The World” features interesting dynamics and a catchy chorus — Freischlader velvety vocals taking the spotlight — while the gorgeous soul-textured ballad “Lost Souls” would not sound out of place on a John Mayer album, even though it proudly bears the distinctive Freischlader insignia.
The funk-infused “Old Life Back” and its contagious groove add another interesting creative layer, with the brilliant Gary Moore-inspired slow blues “The Question” coming next — Freischlader’s lead work striking a perfect balance between economy and showmanship. “The Given Groove” returns with the funk gimmicks — its dancing beat and searing guitar work being instantly accessible — before the record’s centerpiece “Hands Of Jesus” comes into play. Clocking in at 13 minutes, it’s a gospel song based on the slow blues structure, illuminated by both delicacy and taste. While I’m not religious myself, there’s no denying the appeal of Freischlader’s heartfelt and reverent vocals — delivered as if his very soul hanged in the balance — and a superbly executed final solo.
With a total running time of 79 minutes, the eclectic Recorded By Martin Meinschäfer II incorporates the most notable styles in Freischlader’s repertoire, from more straightforward rockers and bouncy funk numbers to slow blues spectaculars, which are notably his specialty. A highlight in his career and a recommended listen for both longtime fans and new listeners.
The Review: 8.5/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– Turn Back The Clock
– Rule The World
– Lost Souls
– The Question
– The Given Groove
– Hands Of Jesus
The Big Hit
– Hands Of Jesus