Nashville isn’t just cowboy hats and Fender Telecasters. Music City U.S.A. is an increasingly diverse community incorporating a wide variety of voices and an assortment of seemingly disparate characters untethered to the city’s regional past. A recent transplant to the city, Texas native Rebecca Moreland is fully cognizant of the city’s past, but like many other brave new songwriters, her work is a small step towards redefining the city’s cultural heritage. The first single from her impending solo release, a concept album entitled The Human Experience, is “Freak Soul” and comes off as a stirring anthem championing individuality and personal distinction. The song, penned by Moreland alone, benefits enormously from the production work of legendary guitarist Johnny Garcia, a longtime collaborator with country music greats like Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood, but ultimately, it’s success rests on her shoulders alone.
The backing track uses a variety of instruments – traditional tools like guitar, bass, drums, and light keyboards. It takes a pop minded approach to its arrangement. The tempo percolates from beginning to end and steadily builds for a satisfying chorus payoff, the bass pumps out a fat pulse, and the live drums snap with palpable physicality. Music and message are ideally suited for each other on “Freak Soul”, but most importantly, Moreland never feels like she’s straining for meaning or effect. Like the best songs, “Freak Soul” pours from her naturally, in a rush of emotion.
Her voice has a smoky allure that invites listeners to heed her call, but her range is equally captivating. Some careful listeners might suspect her at times of sacrificing phrasing for pyrotechnic displays of skill, but much of her delivery seems quite apt for the content. Songs asserting one’s individuality should sound inspired and her vocal turn here fits the bill. She strides through the lyric with cool, implacable confidence born from conviction. She shows a refreshing attention to detail at key points, particularly in the chorus, stressing the right words for the biggest possible effect.
Moreland is an artist passionately interested in serving as a voice for her own experience, but has equal interest in embody other’s experiences through her songwriting. This urge to connect gives her a seriousness of intent lacking from most modern performers. If this first single is any indication of her future work, Moreland will be an imposing force crossing multiple genres. She sets no limitations on herself. Moreland seems like she’s capable of anything and has merely scratched the surface of her talent. “Freak Soul” is a statement of purpose, a chest-thumping shout from the roof tops, a call to arms, and entertaining beyond measure.