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Thursday September 7, 2000

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Melissa Ferrick - Freedom

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By Phil Leckman

Grade: B -

Although her feminist folk/rock bears a more-than-passing resemblance to the work of more celebrated artists like Ani DiFranco or Jewel, singer-songwriter Melissa Ferrick has thus far escaped mainstream attention. Freedom, Ferrick's third release for independent label What Are Records?, is a solid release, but it seems unlikely to bring her that widespread acclaim. Freedom is a skilled, honest recording, but it ultimately does little to set Ferrick apart from the rest of the folkie pack.

None of this is to say that she is a copycat. Ferrick's voice, although similar to DiFranco's, seems more subdued and hesitant - perhaps a bit wiser. She lacks the naive idealism of many of her folk-rock peers, displaying a guardedness perhaps indicative of more experience with life's ups and downs. Ferrick's songs are thus instilled with an intensity that is often hard to find in the work of wide-eyed innocents like Jewel. Open-hearted declarations of hope and love somehow ring truer when sung by someone who sounds like they have seen a little disappointment and a little grim reality.

Musically, however, Freedom is much less distinctive. Ferrick's straightforward, Celtic-tinged compositions are pretty but unremarkable. They lack the burning intensity of the Indigo Girls or the innovative songcraft of DiFranco, leaving little lasting impression on the listener. Ferrick's honesty and emotion may have built her a cult following on the folk circuit, but Freedom's middle-of-the road songwriting is ultimately indistinguishable from the work of many other artists.

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