Rebecca Moreland’s debut album called The Human Experience, not released as of this writing, promises to be a concept album exploring the vagaries of human experience, how they affect lives, and our interconnectedness as conscious souls. It is an ambitious effort by any standard, but Moreland won’t strike anyone as an artist unafraid to wrestle with significant, even timeless, issues. The first single from that debut, “Freak Soul”, deals with one of those significant and timeless themes – maintaining one’s identity in a world that rarely values it. Perhaps it’s the providence of youth to write and perform with such gusto about self-determination and, certainly, rock and roll songwriters have been mining this vein with considerable success for over half a century. Moreland is working within a tradition. What stamps it, however, with the full force of her is how she approaches that tradition. Moreland writes and performs “Freak Soul” like it is the first song of its kind ever written or performed. There’s a marvelous liberation in her vocal delivery, a sense of a spirit set free, and the music bristles and surges with the same forcefulness.
Moreland’s vocal is the heart of the song. Her voice lulls you with its vividness, the strains of huskiness and vulnerability co-existing, and how she teeters precariously, even dramatically, between the two. She is clearly an experienced singer – rather than making the youthful mistake of trying to be heard over the band, Moreland keeps a careful ear tuned for spots in the arrangement where her contributions can affect things most. The lyric isn’t inaccessible at all or poetic. If anything, Moreland speaks with plain-spoken and cutting eloquence, urging listeners to follow her prescription of self-liberation. Moreland’s pipes give it all the oomph it requires.
The music is a tasty pop confection. There’s a decided dance track edge to its restless percussion and heavy bottom end, but its never shallow. Instead, “Freak Soul” has a tempo arguably mirroring its singer’s growing confidence. You feel this tune ramping up in degrees and, when the chorus hits home, the release is total. In that respect, as well, “Freak Soul” has a surprising rock and roll attitude that gets close to the listener and refuses to take no for an answer.
This is a performer and artist who will refuse to take no for an answer all of her life. Moreland’s intelligence and determination throw sparks off this track and push it far beyond the relatively narrow confines of pop into something more. There’s substantial meat on these bones and it’s further refreshing to hear that Moreland valued keeping live instrumentation on the release when so many of her peers, for various reasons, would have opted for the pre-programmed or automated route. “Freak Soul” will likely be Rebecca Moreland’s musical calling card for some time to come. There are worse fates.