Bohéme – Follow the Freedom (review)

Bohéme – Follow the Freedom (CD Baby) review A great summertime record – no matter what the season

Bohéme is actually the new solo project from Cassidy, who fronted the all-girl band Antigone Rising for almost ten years.  Since there’s a rapper already using the name “Cassidy,” she’s created the Bohéme moniker.

With Follow the Freedom, her first solo album under her new name, she’s traded in the country-rock seriousness of her previous band, for a more soulful, upbeat (dare I say lighthearted?) affair.

In fact, probably the most surprising thing about the new record is how positive the lyrics are.  Take the lead off track – “Follow the Freedom,” which features a cameo by the reclusive ex-frontman of Journey, Steve Perry, on backing vocals.  Led by chugging acoustic guitars and a buoyant beat, Cassidy sings “no more waste / and taking space / follow the freedom.”  In fact, the entire record seems to be about her new beginning – “Even the Mistakes” features a funky, wah wah guitar, as she asserts that “even the mistakes / are gonna be great,”  while “Everything Sunshine” shows off her harmonica playing, with another catchy chorus.  Some of the tracks have a danceable quality, while others like “Undertow,” accompanied by a breezy keyboard and guitar,  show off her soulful side.

Cassidy, who’s been called “a vocal dynamo” by Rolling Stone, had a tendency to passionately belt out songs in her old band.  On Follow the Freedom, she seems less interested in proving her skills, and more intent on simply having fun (there are several tracks featuring her laughter).  The music also has a carefree quality – a mix of rock, pop and soul, that makes it a great summertime record.   One of the best examples of this hybrid is “Blind Spot,” which opens with a repetitive acoustic guitar and Cassidy’s gritty, almost trailer-trash rapping, before it explodes into this gorgeously melodic chorus.  At one point near the end, the music drops out, revealing the sound of a crackling vinyl record. This tension and release works perfectly – it’s no wonder, this is the first single from the new record.

The album closes with “Thank You For Breaking My Heart,” an introspective acoustic number that’s the closest she comes to her old band.  It’s certainly the darkest thing on the record, but since it’s at the end, it doesn’t hurt the flow.

Follow the Freedom is an infectious blend of pop and soul, with just enough rock thrown in to keep you from being embarrassed while cranking her CD at a traffic light.  No matter what name she uses, this is a great disc. –Tony Peters