James Fredholm’s debut album is unusually accompanied by a small book of his poetry, titled Uncaged. This is a clear indication as to where his priorities now lie as, having spent much of his adult life pursuing a business career, Fredholm considers himself to be on his ‘road not taken’ as a full-time poet and singer-songwriter. Described as a “country/indie/rock” artist, Fredholm’s music covers the gamut of all three, although it isn’t particularly easy to classify.
Opener Yearning with handicaps throughout – is a slow number about his desire for an alternative existence – the search for meaning and desire for change at the heart of many of the album’s song lyrics; typified also by the second track, Set In Stone, which has a similarly autobiographical approach: “He writes his poetry/escaping reality.”
The song, Uncaged, is probably the most successful in this collection, its verses sounding somewhat curiously similar to the Flashdance song What a Feeling. It’s nicely accompanied by backing vocals from Nina Müller and Alexandra Neuenschwander, and some plangent violin. The song reaches a rousing crescendo towards the end, with the lyrics, “Birds: gather round my window/teach me how to fly/teach me how to fly.” The song’s structure is very much echoed by one of the later songs on the album, Anastasia, although this time to less successful effect.
While there’s no doubting the sincerity of James Fredholm’s project – and his desire to stay true to himself and his vision is entirely laudable – what ultimately fails to satisfy is that the musical accompaniment too often feels like it’s artificially grafted onto the poetry, rather than feeling like a natural union.