EP Review: Freya Wilcox and the Howl – “Bareknuckle Love”

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After falling in love with an American who was visiting in Sydney, Aussie blues singer Freya Wilcox decided that it was time to leave Brisbane, Queensland and venture halfway around the world to New York City to pursue her heart as well as her dreams. It wasn’t long after arriving that she found a place on various small stages around the five boroughs, a far cry from the dirty stoops where she performed for roughneck Australian miners. It was on one of those stages at The Ding Dong Lounge in Manhattan that friends Craig Shay and CJ Dunaieff from Long Island  first saw, and more importantly first heard, Freya. They instantly knew that she had a unique sound that lends itself to punk and approached her after the set. From that chance encounter, Freya Wilcox and the Howl was born.

Fate has a funny way of intervening just when it’s needed. Female fronted bands are on the uptick and most of them are in a similar vein. Not that it’s bad, but it’s always refreshing when something slightly askew comes along. The band’s debut EP, Bareknuckle Love, melds blues, country and punk all together in equal parts. It really is genius how they have kept the balance in line, so much so that the end product is something totally different and miles away from the genres it takes from.  The album has the raw, unproduced sound that you don’t normally hear from  traditional studio recordings. You can hear it in the drums throughout, but it’s most apparent in opening track “Bury Me”. The fact that it’s a three piece is perfect too. It leaves Freya’s surly, aggressive vocals nowhere to hide. Her sound has been likened to fellow Aussie Brody Dalle. I can hear it in spots, but overall it’s much softer. I wouldn’t say it’s delicate, but definitely not as savage as Dalle.  More like a grittier Janis Joplin. It’s not just her voice that stands out either, she’s been playing guitar ever since her mom finally caved and bought her one after years of begging every time they drove past the local music store as a toddler. The guitar riffs have an unmistakable country twang that weaves effortlessly between the rock and blues. The distinct sound is showcased in “Easier To Lie” which sounds like it could’ve competed with Johnny Cash for the top of the country charts in the 1960’s.

The overall tone of the album is fast, raw and unpolished. The one exception is “Dirty Song” which is definitely the song with the most blues influence. Sullen, hollow and winding. Slowly building up to a crashing chorus. I think they probably describe themselves perfectly through what they list as their influences: “Filthy blues, vintage punk and fever dreams.”  I don’t know that I can say it any better. It’s exactly what your brain is subconsciously categorizing it as in head from. It takes you a second for it to set in because you don’t have a point of reference, but eventually you wrap your head around it. That aspect is exactly what is going to take these guys farther than just the damp, dive bars in NYC and sure as hell farther than a dusty stoop in Queensland.

3.5 / 5


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