Anyone curious as to why the supremely versatile, sweet and sensual voiced Portland, OR based singer/songwriter Courtney Freed took over 12 years to release a follow-up to her well-received debut, the Harold Arlen tribute (Happy Little Bluebird) can just garner a look at her resume in the meantime.
She’s appeared in local musical theatre productions; created the popular concert series Portland Sings!; produced various shows, including her own one woman showcase Mercury Rising, her homage to Freddie Mercury; performed across the U.S. and led her swing band The Courtney Freed Five.
The good news is during all that time, she’s also developed her keenly insightful, emotionally intelligent songwriting chops, so her long awaited follow-up Big Crazy Love marks not only the re-emergence of a great indie jazz singer, but also the coming out party for an impactful songwriter who effortlessly blends her jazz sensibilities with pop, folk, country and gospel on tracks like the lively, optimistic power ballad “There’s a Mornin’ Coming,” the dreamy and whimsical “Take Your Time” (featuring the gorgeous flute harmony of Josh Gilbert), and the passionate romantic title track and hopeful and lyrical, classically tinged “See The Sea.”
While the focus is on her own heartfelt compositions and distinctively sunny worldview, she cements her status as a vocal interpreter extraordinaire, moving far beyond the Great American Songbook (which she touches on amiably with “What a Difference A Day Makes”) to artfully tackle gems from Jobim (the lively and charming “No More Blues,” featuring Harmody Hindi’s breezy guitar), George Michael (maybe the first time we’ve heard Wham’s “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” as a feisty jazz romp), and of course, her famed muse Mercury, as she brings her caressing vocal grace to his dramatic Queen obscurity “Melancholy Blues.”
Big Crazy Love is a welcome return and hopefully the start of a great new run for Freed as a powerhouse singer/songwriter who still can work magic with the classics.