Henrik Freischlader is a German blues guitarist, singer, songwriter, producer and self-taught multi-instrumentalist from the North Rhine-Westphalia area of Germany. He was born in Cologne, and began his musical journey as a drummer. When he was 14 he heard “Cold Day in Hell” by Gary Moore on the radio, which inspired him to play blues guitar.
He started his career by playing in small venues, for the little reward, but he has gained many loyal fans in this way. Then his big break came when he opened for Joe Bonamassa in 2006. Thanks to this, Freischlader had access to a much wider audience.
Last month THE BOMBER JACKET saw Freischlader playing live with his band at the Robin 2 venue, in the West Midlands, U.K.
At the Robin 2, the musician played an irresistibly atmospheric set of songs, largely taken from his new album House in the Woods (Cable Car Records). He entered the stage wearing his trademark Stetson newsboy cap, casual leather jacket and jeans. A warm ripple of applause was followed by the mid-tempo song “Sisters” which had a freewheeling pace. We could almost feel the breeze in our hair as we seemed to hurtle down a cobble stoned slope, with the sound of the warm fuzzy wah-wah ringing in our ears.
“Nowhere to Go” was hearty and brainy. “Where do I go?” pleaded the guitarist. Like most of his work, this sounded as moody as hell. His sense of introspection was explored within the folds of the lonely chorus–he seemed to be creating ghostly images in his own mind. Maybe it was because of the enforced solitude (of virtual imprisonment) inside the House in the Woods where he locked himself up to do the writing. But whatever the cause, his thoughts were painful. They hid in the shadows and tormented his conscience. The only light that seemed to shine emerged when the solo blues rebel yelled out his cry, like a snake licking the air.
The next song, “1999” had a biting riff and a bruising beat. All our heads nodded in agreement when Freischlader explained that he didn’t have any money… and yet didn’t “give a sh*t.” The syncopation of this number was accurate and refined (Björn Krüger on drums). The guitar solo was guttural and juicy, leaking out like blood from a fine rib-eye. Freischlader’s voice was somewhat unhappy, even cranky, yet it was also surprisingly relaxing, sounding a bit like the English singer/songwriter Paul Carrack. This was the blues par excellence.
“Breaking My Heart Again” was softer than any bittersweet ballad we’d heard in a long time. It offered a generous sloping riff, then the guitar seemed to zigzag off and out of sight. “House In The Woods” had funky drums, and a sooty Hammond accompaniment (courtesy of ‘Mo’ Fuhrhop on keys). But one of our favorite songs was “Take The Blame,” with its “Get a little cooler” riff and springboard drums. A squelching guitar licked around the edges of Freischlader’s competent vocals on this one. The guitar work was muscular and elastic.
Henrik Freischlader is an extraordinary guitarist and a promising singer. His playing is consistently superb, and his songwriting is noble and reliable as well. His musical creations–made up of blues, rock, funk and even the sounds of reggae–are exciting and imaginative. No doubt, we will be seeing a lot more from this talented 30-year-old blues guitarist in the future.