There's a time-tested tradition in popular music of women speaking their minds about no-good men, a practice that links R&B diva Ruth Brown with alt-rocker Alanis Morissette and country foremother Loretta Lynn with pop queen Beyonce. We're accustomed to such songs liberating female anger in myriad forms, be it searing animosity, icy disgust, malevolent wit or some other strain.
When Dori Freeman set out to deflate a male ego in "Still a Child," the waltz-time country tune that closes her enchanting, self-titled debut, she made use of different expressive tools. From verse to verse, she details the failings to which this guy is oblivious, the decencies from which he acts exempt, the sheer scale of his self-absorption, offering each damning vignette as proof that he's "still a child." She sighs as she sings these things, lacing her notes together with elegant trills and lilting composure, then acknowledges in each chorus the conflicted nature of her feelings, the deep, willful tenderness she still harbors towards this cad. There's no ire here — only youthful self-knowledge and weary realism. In an email to NPR, Freeman reflected on her writerly intentions: "I would say it's more a feeling of resignation; acknowledging that the other person isn't holding up their end of things, but admitting that not having their love is harder than actually letting go and moving on."
It's startling to hear such a fully formed singing and songwriting voice come out of nowhere. Her producer, sophisticated British folkie Teddy Thompson, must've been equally caught off guard when he received the unsolicited social media inquiry of a no-name, 24-year-old, untapped talent. Freeman hails from Galax, Va., a tiny Appalachian town that hosts an annual old-time fiddlers' convention that she's been attending all of her life, and until recently, she confined her ambitions largely to the local scene. "Between high school and now," she wrote, "I've just done a lot of stumbling around trying to figure out what I should be doing and how to turn my love of music into something sustainable. It's taken me several years to muster the courage to pursue writing and performing professionally. My confidence is starting to catch up."