Freeversation: The Album
Been underground lately? If you have, and if you’re big into the organic soul scene, then you’ve no doubt caught Freestyle Nation.Why can’t I talk about love,
Paul ‘PJ’ Morton Jr. fronts this exquisite Atlanta-based outfit consisting of four male / one female group members. They don’t bill themselves as a Gospel group, but with True lyrics combined with the group’s Gospel background and the overall musical feel, the album easily finds a place in any Gospelflava.com visitor’s collection. Artists themselves are rushing to give props to the group (See interview with Lisa McClendon).
Joining Morton on Freestyle Nation is Kalilia “Sweet Lili” Wilson (vocals), Jesse Bond (guitar), Alvin “Cornbread” Garrett (bass) and Edward “Big Ed” Clark (drums). Their debut is titled Freeversation, and is delicious concoction of funky, old-school soul, new school grooves, and True School messagery.
The album’s live instrumentation is scorching, with bass, guitar, drums, horns and innovative keyboards a swing back to the sort of R&B vibe associated with Tony! Toni! Toné! Vocals are mostly from Morton, his versatility coming through song after song. Avoiding a common flaw among some neosoul outfits, his soul inflections and resonant pipes are real, and never come across as contrived. Wilson (“Lili”) adds strong backing support, making for a nice male/female vocal balance.
Among standout cuts is “Emotions In Disguise”, a relationship song with Bond’s guitar and plenty of horns from Hornz Unlimited etching the vibe into consciousness. Morton’s lead vocals are absolutely stellar here.
“Keep On Moving’ On” is a jam that finds Morton tackling the topic of subtle temptation, and it’s dangers. With the self-exhortation to ‘move on’ and recognize that the “Father is watching over me” and blessed with layer upon layer of intricately woven, rich vocals, the jam never quits on the groove level.
Morton presents wise counsel on “Grass Just Looks Greener”, a cautionary slow ballad which he uses to tip off would-be relationship wanderers. Rich harmonies abound amidst the proverbial lyricism.
“Why Can’t I Talk About Love” is packaged with acoustic guitar and suitable snare, reminiscent of something Lauryn Hill would feel comfortable with. Lyrically, you could call it the definitive song of Freestyle Nation, for it puts the exclamation point on what just might be the very purpose of the group. Morton pours his heart into the song:
if that’s what comes from up above.
That’s what you were created for. Love.
Love is God, God is love.
So why can’t it get spoken of.
If love is spiritual,
then why can’t I talk about it.
Take time to revel in “Free”, a cut that has a ‘soundtrack feel’ to it, courtesy of brass which paces the track, punchy phrasing and memorable lyrical motifs. “Back In Time” has a similar vibe, but with solo piano replacing the brass.
Like the group says of themselves, Freestyle Nation is “refreshing acoustic sound with a contemporary return to soulful musician ship”. Add in insightful lyrics presented directly and candidly, and which never swerve from the Truth as defined by scripture, and you’ve got yourself far more than just a treat.
Producer: Freestyle Nation
album release date: August, 2002
review by Stan North and Melanie Clark —
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