I have to admit when I first received this CD in the mail and saw the picture on the cover of this CD by husband and wife team Jeremy and Rebecca Hendrickson, I almost instantly felt a tinge of nausea in my stomach. In all of my music reviewing experience, I have never heard a great sounding duet CD when the artists were married or actively “together” as a couple. Now, someone might yell at me “what about jazz duo Tuck and Patti”? Well, I hated that shit. I really did. The music was always kind of sappy and way, way lame with pretty much no excitement anywhere, an aural equivalent of two people making goo-goo eyes at each other while sitting at the Mall food court. Part of that tired genre of “smooth jazz” pablum which has helped to destroy the jazz market and though I am sure they enjoyed working together, it spelled (and sounded like) disaster to me. It’s like an old saying from the movie business which states that if the stars are dating, there is no sexual tension on the screen, which amounts to no excitement. There has to be some sort of tension. The music I have heard by married artists or lovers/partners making an album together all tends to be somewhat sappy with no fire whatsoever. So, pardon me if I wasn’t wuite thrilled to put this album into the old CD player.
Thankfully, in this case, there is very little of the cloying, syrupy stuff I expected on this album, and I actually enjoyed this set quite thoroughly. For one thing, the pair have been able to get a bunch of great studio vets involved. And not just any group of vets, but musicians who have worked with such diverse talents as Faith Hill, Rascal Flatts, John Mayer, Mary J. Blige, Josh Groban, Mariah Carey, Eric Clapton, and Chicago, just to name a few. Besides Jeremy Fredrickson, who acquits himself very well on piano and various keyboard instruments while showing a true talent in production as this album’s producer, the players include guitarist Paul Serpa, bassist Matt Mangano and drummer Jonathan Hendrickson, who may or may not be related to Jeremy and Rebecca.
The first cut “Fool” is a raucous uptempo pseudo-country number with a dash of Serpa’s Stevie Ray Vaughan-style guitar at the outset. Rebecca voice takes of and soars through the song. Touches of violin throughout the song adds a bit of soulful country sound to the mix while Serpa’s guitar continues to squall in the background, spurring the song into overdrive. Jeremy’s keyboards are buried into the mix but the song as a whole is a barnstormer and a great opening cut to the CD so no complaints about that. Flyer, the second song, starts off with a jazzy horn blast and as it starts to kick in sounds like a more R&B motif, which it definitely is as Rebecca sings with a more jazzy style on this song and it morphs into something close to a modern take on disco music as it is definitely danceable and has a retro feel to it. Old school disco sax solo too! The third cut, What We Leave Behind starts with some seriously bluesy guitar from Serpa and the song is definitely a slow burner leaning heavily on the blues. Rebecca duets with Jeremy on this cut and it is Jeremy’s first appearance vocally on the CD so far. Though his voice does not have the range and expression of Rebecca’s, he acquits himself okay, if a little blandly. The song would probably been better with a different singer duetting or possibly just Rebecca singing alone. Great blues guitar work from Serpa on this cut! A choir kicks in at the end of the song, which is a great touch and takes the song to another level as Rebecca really cuts loose with her vocals and “gets happy” as the church folks would say. The next song has a real somber synth and strings opening before the song fades into just voice from Rebecca and piano from Jeremy with minimal percussion and synth wash in the background. Slowly the song grows into a ballad reminiscent of Wind Beneath My Wings as it builds into a crescendo as the song goes on. When the drums eventually kick in it is “power ballad” time! The fifth song Straight and Narrow has a sort of country rock feel to it with some fiddles and production that would make it a good fit on any modern country station. The song Made To Love You is next and sounds like modern singer/sonmgwriter pop with Jeremy handling the vocals at the outset but could also fit on country radio as it has a tinge of folk to it. Rebecca’s lovely voice joins on the chorus and though some 80’s rock guitar shows up here and there, this could easily be adapted to country radio. How I Love You, the next cut, starts off with some funky guitar but winds up as a power ballad by the chorus with Jeremy singing lead and Rebecca showing up for some harmony vocals. Production on this cut, as on the last, seems Christian rock oriented – very clean, very pure uplifting sound and lyrics. Miracle is next and starts with some funky piano from Jeremy and some horn section goodness and truns into a great rocking pop song by the chorus. Very good stuff and very contemporary sounding without coming off as faddish production wise. Tallest Tree is an pseudo-inspirational ballad sung by Jeremy and has AOR-style production. Decent but bland as you would expect from contemporary Christian-styled music. Why Strive, the next song, starts with some classical-sounding synth work and then develops into a funk song before turning into a Christian ballad by the chorus. A very interesting arrangement that works and which echoes Procul Harum’s A White Shade Of Pale in parts Great harmonies by Rebecca and Jeremy. Second to last cut Rise and Shine starts out with some wonderfully-played blues guitar and seems to be an R&B slow burner. The last cut, Have You Got The Time, is a jazzy little number you might hear at a jazz club right before it is going to close, a classic torch song.
While this CD is kind of all over the place musically, I have really enjoyed the variety of musical styles and genres presented. The eclectic vibe of this CD could also lend it to conceivably serve as a demo for a major record company to use to check out their stabs at various musical styles so as to decide where to slot the pair and how to go forward with them from here. To me, I am most intrigued at the more country sounding numbers as it would be a rarity to have a country duet act that were actually involved with each other. There is the downside of what would happen to the act should the relationship not work out, but that would have to be handled when and if it ever happens. I quite enjoyed this CD and though there are several things which could be tightened up and tweaked for the pair to get the most mileage out of their strengths, this CD shows a lot of talent and depth from each of them and what is needed now is a label to pick them up and focus their talents in one musical direction. Otherwise, a great showing from this pair of artists.
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