Having seen Von em a couple times since the release of his 1999 CD debut Von Em, I can genuinely say if you haven't heard or seen him live, you're only cheating yourself. A vibrant performer and teller of tales, his Beat-leaning synthesis of suburban/urban blues folk is a greatly appreciated relief from the trash and crass commercialism hoisted upon a music hungry public.
Which is why it's very difficult for me to say what I'm going to say next about his latest release Free. It sounds too safe. It sounds pretty with a little dash of sameness. Maybe I miss the drive and telepathy of his past stalwarts, bassist Bill Gordon and percussionist Pete Pelligri. Sure his vocals and playing are as stellar as ever, and the songs themselves may be as good as his many past accomplishments, but there's a grittiness and sense of immediacy missing. In the past, Von Em has brought you into his stories, on Free he seems to be telling us about them.
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