The following article was written by John Leasure
Scioto Voice Media Moments

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The Scioto Voice - Dec 3, 2015


Christmas release in support of Grammy nomination
Written by John Leasure (Media Moments | Scioto Voice | Dec. 3, 2015)

I had a nice conversation with local recording artist and performer Steve Free about the re-release of his Christmas CD from a few years ago. The CD features international seasonal song, Baby Boy, and a selection holiday songs that really give a different feel to the typical Christmas album.

"When we released Just A Baby Boy it was as a single. One song. Radio stations in Europe kept asking for our Christmas album and I kept saying it was just one song," admits Free. "I was told no one released just one song so we went into the studio and put together The Light of Christmas which was created to be different.

By different Free meant not the usual collection of well-known songs. You are not going to find Free's rendition of White Christmas here but instead his version of a hymn inspired by Saint Patrick and a pagan king,  Be Thou My Vision. A German DJ complimented Free that his Christmas song choice was different and held to the Folk genre. Free is identified with the world over. The CD has a few original songs and classics, some known, some not.

The Light of Christmas is available at all digital outlets like 'iTunes, Google Play and Amazon Prime Music. It is also available at the various streaming services from Apple Music to Spotify. Reviews for the CD when it was originally released commented on Free's minimalist production, meaning that you hear on the CD; what you would hear in a live performance. 'you will not find any electronic production values that hide imperfections in ~is voice or make his voice sound more pleasing. Most big-budget music releases utilize computer programs to "even out" the voice and music. On a Steve Free CD what you get is Steve Free, his musicians and that is all.
Of all the songs on the ‘The Light of Christmas’, perhaps the most compelling in its simplicity is Be Thou My Vision.  It certainly exemplifies the kind of music Free sings and brings to his public. It is a verse written centuries ago to honor an event that happened a century before the verse by a now legendary religious figure (Saint Patrick) in defiance of a pagan king, High King Leoghaire (pronounced Leary). And yet the arrangement recorded by Free is as relevant today as I am sure it was way-way-back-in-the-day, Free admits they had to lessen the number of Thees and Thous but he remains true to the original verse.

The CD also includes the International hit, Just A Baby Boy.  It has spread throughout Europe  and continues to find airplay here and abroad. Another original cut on the CD is Christmas ‘In The Valley’ about a traditional holiday in a valley much like ours here. "I always include a song inspired by this area," said Free. "This is about the kind of Christmases I remember here and why we celebrate." It has the traditional Folk accompaniment but also has a clear message of the season and why the holiday is important in this valley. He takes a spin on What Child Is This with a more contemporary sound to the familiar-tune.  He also adds his own sound to Go Tell It On The Mountain and God Rest ye Merry Gentlemen. Yes, traditional songs done in a non-traditional way. These arrangements compliment the original and obscure selections making for a Christmas album that can be played all year.

But Free questioned his record company why release it again so soon? It seems that Steve Free is up for a Grammy nomination in, the Americana Single of the Year division. The nominating process is a series of ballots and selections by committees and then an official nomination for the awards ceremony. Free's single release Ship of Dreams is in the nominating process for a Grammy at the 58th Grammy Awards next year (usually in late February).

The song is the title cut from his last full CD released in September we discussed a few months ago here. The record company wanted to' be sure' Free's music was in front of the industry as nominating was taking place.  A re-release of the Christmas CD places the recording back on playlists of stations playing the Americana music catalog and in front of people on the various nominating committees. Americana, as an American Music Association format, is an amalgam of American folk music formed by the confluence of the shared and varied traditions in American music; specifically those, sounds that are merged from folk, country, blues, rhythm and blues, rock and roll and other external influences. As a radio format it is mostly used by Public Broadcasting and university radio stations throughout the country.

We all know Steve Free as a, local treasure for sure. But perhaps we tend to forget Steve is a citizen of the world and his music has traveled the breadth of the globe entertaining and making people aware of a small place in the foothills of the Appalachians. I know that last Christmas I was speaking with people on Skype near the Ural Mountain range and they knew about a guy named Steve Free who had a song being played throughout Eastern Europe about Just A Baby. "Are you from the same place called Portsmouth," I was asked. I said I was from Portsmouth and f knew Steve Free well.  So remember as we hear his music throughout our, hills and valleys, he is also known thousands of miles away nestled in between Eastern Europe and the Siberian Planes of Russia as Well.  A local treasure the world over.