Freebo Chooses the Solo Route and Gets Support from Friends on His Journey

Chad Watson with Freebo - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia
Chad Watson with Freebo - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia
Freebo with Steve Postell - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia
Freebo with super Steve Postell – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

By DONNA BALANCIA – Social media ain’t got nothing on Freebo, as the well-known musician celebrated the release of his new CD at McCabe’s Guitar Shop.

The word “engagement” took on new meaning at an audience-interactive show that brought out the best in performers and viewers alike.

“The show was really fun,” said one audience member. “Freebo is a real gentleman, I liked how he came out walking through the audience playing, and then brought each of his friends out one by one.  It made me really feel like I was a part of the show.”

Freebo’s list of friends is rather impressive with bassist extraordinaire Chad Watson, drummer Michael Jochum, veteran keyboardist Van Dyke Parks, guitarist Steve Postell, and vocalists Rosemary Butler, Eric Schwartz and Dan Navarro.  The evening opened as Freebo and each musician walked through the audience on their way to the stage.

Freebo and Friends - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia
Freebo and Friends – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Freebo’s new album, If Not Now When, is an introspective collection of the world as he has come to see it over the years, and reflects how he feels about living out his dream of writing songs and then performing them.

His attempt to go solo is a winner on several levels.

Freebo’s voice is reminicent of the great voice of Rick Danko of The Band, and his voice has clearly been severely underutilized over the years. He has a fan base, amassed over the years, who appear to be happily converted to following the solo work.  But maybe the highlight of this independent endeavour is Freebo’s songs inspire, and show others the way to follow their passion. It’s advice he has obviously now taken on for himself.

Dan Navarro with Van Dyke Parks - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia
Vocalist and songwriter Dan Navarro with the musically talented quipster Van Dyke Parks – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Freebo is fortunate to have amassed an eclectic group of friends and supporters — who were on the stage with him and who were with him in the audience as well.

The friends run the gamut, ranging from the wisecracking young Schwartz, to the legendary Parks. Parks kept the evening running with his midwestern-style asides and quips.

The audience felt right at home yelling out comments about mutual pals, and even making a group phone call to those who weren’t able to attend the show.

The music was a reflection of the group’s interests: Thriving despite the odds, cherishing the miracles of everyday moments and sharing good times and friendship with those around you.  It is clear none of the people on stage take the friendships for granted.

Chad Watson - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia
Chad Watson – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

As a well-known bassist, Freebo appreciated the efforts and support of Watson, who rips the bass like few others.  Watson is a good natured partner to Freebo, who really “gets” him.  Freebo was a longtime bassist to the likes of musicians including Crosby, Stills and Nash, Neil Young, Bonnie Raitt and others.

Drummer Jochum is a well-versed producer as well as humble performer.  He produced the album If Not Now When, and helped craft a full-bodied recording — and re-recording — of some of Freebo’s most inspiring works.

A sweet moment during the show was when Freebo and Navarro reminiced about Navarro’s songwriting partner, Eric Lowen, who passed in 2012 after a long battle with Lou Gherig’s disease.

Vocalist Butler, who has worked with most of the famous musicians of the 1970s and 1980s through today, seemed to take the whole night in stride with lots of giggling. She left the audience in amazement with her fabulous voice, singing the Linda Rondstadt song “Adios.”   More than one person nearby was crying from Butler’s rendition of the Jimmy Webb song.

Rosemary Butler gives Freebo a kiss - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia
Rosemary Butler gives Freebo a kiss – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

The audience didn’t have to worry about keeping it together.  Many were close friends, others fans who felt like friends.

“I used to watch Freebo on a show called ‘Mr. Pete,'” said a concert-goer. “He was with the Zydeco Party Band on the show.  That’s one of the reasons I came to see him.”

All in all, Freebo’s journey down his path was welcomed wholeheartedly by an enthusiastic crowd at McCabe’s.  And surrounded by friends, family and fans, it’s easy to see that Freebo is not going the solo route alone.