Blue Ridge Mountains-based singer-songwriter Dori Freeman has announced her return with a dazzling new LP, Ten Thousand Roses. The “electric, lo-fi, grunge-country” opus, produced by her husband Nicholas Falk, is set to be released via her own boutique label, Blue Hens Music, on September 10. Freeman has created a Southern masterpiece with her fourth studio album, a ten-song collection that engages with the tenets of Americana, but infuses them with inventive lyrical ideas and bold melodic experiments. Throughout the album, she challenges traditional Appalachian stereotypes, instead thoughtfully engaging with the prevalence of such ideas and how they can fit into our multifaceted modernity. Ten Thousand Roses is roots music in the truest sense of the genre.
The decision to live outside of any particular in-demand, big city musical destination was a conscious one. Freeman chose her hometown of Galax, Virginia because she says she’s been better able to develop her music in a truer way to herself. “I’ve never been drawn to living in the city as much as I love visiting them. I prefer a rural, small town life,” says Freeman. She also believes that living apart from the industry frees her from the pressure to fit current ideas of what a genre should sound like. “I just make music I like and hope other people will like it, too.”
The latter is a lock. The album will surely continue to boost Freeman’s star power, as she has garnered a heap of acclaim thanks to a trio of records produced by Teddy Thompson. One of those albums, her 2016 self-titled affair, featured “You Say,” which continues to find fans, steadily climbing toward six million streams on Spotify, largely by word of mouth.
Freeman wrote the songs on Ten Thousand Roses during the pandemic, when, like millions of others, she was stuck at home. She made a point, however, to spend as much time outdoors as possible. “I really observed and appreciated nature during that time,” she says. Natural elements such as storm-clouds, wildflowers, and spiders show up as motifs throughout the record, which examines everything from being deeply in love with someone to realizing that you don’t need another person to complete you. No song more clearly exemplifies this than the album’s first single and video—a soaring country rock anthem—entitled “The Storm.” I wrote ‘The Storm’ as an anthem for women who’ve been put through the ringer by men who didn’t deserve them,” explains Freeman. “Storms and floods are powerful imagery for tumultuous relationships so I wanted the song to have a big swelling chorus to reflect that.”
The album has a self-described grunge-country sound, a thrilling style that would fall apart in lesser hands. The specificity of her observations come into sharp clarity throughout the album, which displays Freeman’s virtuosic songwriting ability and breathtaking voice. On opener “Get You Off My Mind,” Freeman sings over jangling and the gorgeous skirmish of strummed mandolin. The melody is deceptively simple, but in Freeman’s matter-of-fact storytelling she’s able to convey a story both deeply personal and instantly relatable.
Elsewhere, on “Nobody Nothing,” Freeman shows off a near falsetto over a shuffled drum line and plucked guitar strings that sound imported directly from Sun Studios. The album plays with all sorts of styles and tricks, like the odd-metered complexity on “Ten Thousand Roses,” but these accents always serve to highlight the center of the show, which happens to be Freeman’s voice. Even on a song like “I Wanted To,” which glimmers with the joy of a country march, Freeman’s powerful, emotive voice steals the show.
Alongside Freeman and her husband, Nicholas Falk, the couple are joined by a stellar cast of musicians. There’s Victor Furtado bringing his skills as the youngest-ever recipient of the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo, Eli Wildman contributing acoustic guitar and mandolin, the much sought-after keyboardist Sam Fribush on piano, keys, and organ, Berklee College of Music graduate Eric Robertson adds additional guitars and bass, as well as acclaimed multi-instrumentalist Aaron Lipp contributing banjo and bass. It’s a tour de force backing up Dori Freeman, who brings her stereotype-shattering Southern sound to an eagerly awaiting world.