Freddy & Francine return with timely, soulful new album, I AM AFRAID TO DIE!
They say hindsight is 20/20. Foresight is even better. Nashville’s powerful husband/wife duo Freddy & Francine had just that while writing their new album I AM AFRAID TO DIE! last year. They couldn’t have known it then, but by the time the album would be ready for release the world would be in the grip of a global pandemic – and they would have already painted its picture song by song.
If you ask Freddy & Francine (whose actual names are Lee Ferris and Bianca Caruso), the album’s timeliness is no coincidence.
“We have been observing for some time now what we feel to be the end of the world. We're referring to the end of connection, vulnerability, presence, authenticity: The better angels of our nature are on the brink of extinction,” says Ferris. “The Corona Virus Pandemic only adds more anxiety on top of what we have been experiencing for some time.”
The album’s 10 songs are as universally relatable as all great songs, but listening in 2020, it’s impossible to look past their immediate relevance. The groovy mid-tempo “Budget” is about finding time away from a busy life to spend with loved ones. The song “I Just Wanna Listen To The Band Play” uses a sexy, jazzy-R&B approach to drive home a feeling anyone stuck in a quarantine can relate to. Consider the line found deep in the pocket of the soulful ballad “Meet Me Halfway,” which states, “You gotta say sorry, keep your side of the street clean, and if you really love me, meet me halfway” – it’s not meant to be taken literally, but no one would blame you if you did.
The title track, “I Am Afraid To Die!,” is an islandy number that is more relationship than quarantined ship, but its title speaks for itself. And no line hits home in the age of Corona as much as one from from “Sad Small Town,” in which both Caruso and Ferris, trading off lines democratically, proclaim, “History only repeats itself to make it clear there is beauty in the shattering of what we hold so dear.” The song rolls like a drop of sweat on a long past summer day right on into the present.
After a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2019 I AM AFRAID TO DIE! was recorded in Nashville and produced by Ferris and Caruso. It was originally slated for a September 2020 release, but the duo decided to release it much sooner. “With everything that's going on we're changing our plan because we do feel it's a topical record and we want to get as much music out there as possible in this period,” Caruso said.
The self-produced album departs from Freddy & Francine’s established folk/pop sound – which has found them on stage at the famed Telluride Bluegrass Festival and collaborating with Dead & Co. keyboardist Jeff Chimenti on an Off-Broadway musical – and instead leans heavily into the duo’s soul and R&B roots. I AM AFRAID TO DIE! was also recorded live with a band – something Freddy & Francine have recently been incorporating into live shows – honing in on a sound that travels back in time to when a song, a band, and a voice (or in their case, two voices) was all anyone needed. “I think producing this record on our own was a way to take back our power and assert our independence. For the last six albums we've looked to someone to tell us "Yes! That was the take!" For this record we had to make the call. Every step of the way we had to trust our own instincts,” Caruso says.
Though I AM AFRAID TO DIE! seems like it was written about the Corona Virus, the band says it was actually written to combat another pandemic – narcissism. “The obligation we feel as artists is to respond authentically to what we observe. On this record we aimed for a joyful celebration of the flaws in our humanity while facing the erosion of our collective spirit and looming extinction. We filter our anger, fear, and frustrations through our music and transmute it into joy!”