Texas is famous for having a wide variety of roots music, from country-rock and honky tonk to Texas blues to Mexican norteño music. And the Texas-based duo Him & Her bring a jazzy, bluesy approach to roots rock, Americana and folk-rock on In the Groove.
Him & Her (www.HimAndHerTX.com) is an appropriate name for this duo, which is a husband-and-wife team consisting of Brenda Freed on lead vocals and guitar and Michael D’Eath on harmonica. Neither of them is a native of Texas: Freed is originally from Iowa, while D’Eath is a native of England. But these days, Texas is where Freed and D’Eath (who were married in 2000) write and record. And they are based in Blanco, Texas, which is about 50 miles from Austin and 50 miles from San Antonio in the southeastern part of the state.
Freed brings a very hands-on outlook to this CD. In addition to handling all of the lead vocals and co-producing it (with Gary Hickinbotham), Freed co-wrote five of the songs: “You’ll Never Know,” “Simple Words,” “My Human Loves Me,” “A Few Kind Words” and the opener “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down.” And Him & Her associate JB Braden is also an important contributor to the songwriting on In the Groove: he wrote or co-wrote “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down,” “My Human Loves Me,” “Smilin’ Inside,” “My Mind Is Dirty,” “Ships” and “Don’t Tell Me Lies.”
But while the songwriters can vary from one selection to the next on this CD, Him & Her’s appreciation of jazz and blues asserts itself more often than not. And the direct or indirect influences that one hears range from Maria Muldaur to Rickie Lee Jones to Joni Mitchell. Muldaur, Jones and Mitchell are all known for being influenced by jazz; Mitchell even named one of her albums Mingus (as in jazz icon Charles Mingus). And when one is listening to “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down,” “My Human Loves Me,” “A Few Kind Words” or “My Mind Is Dirty,” it is evident how much Him & Her, like Muldaur, Jones or Mitchell, appreciate the more jazz-minded side of roots rock, Americana and folk-rock.
Here’s where the plot thickens: in terms of her vocal phrasing, Freed sometimes sound a bit like Deborah Harry. Certainly, Harry is not the first stylistic comparison who would come to mind when one is describing the types of songs found on this album. Harry, in the late 1970s, became famous as the lead singer of Blondie, an adventurous new wave band that was influenced by everything from punk and 1960s girl groups to disco, hip-hop and reggae. But while “Smilin’ Inside,” “Don’t Tell Me Lies” or “Never Change Your Style” are not the type of songs that Harry would have recorded either as Blondie’s lead singer or on her solo albums of the 1980s and 1990s, Freed does have some Harry-ish inflections in her vocals. And that blend of songwriting along the lines of Muldaur, Jones or Mitchell with Harry-ish vocal inflections is an interesting, appealing combination.
“My Human Loves Me” is a fun, playful song performed from the perspective of a pet dog who is very fond of its owner. But the mood changes on the song that comes right after it: “Simple Words,” which is about a 17-year-old who runs away to escape a bad situation at home and ends up becoming a street prostitute. Having a cute, lighthearted song followed by a song as dark as “Simple Words” demonstrates that Him & Her are quite capable of diversity.
There aren’t a lot of really dark songs on In the Groove, however. On the whole, this is an optimistic album. Freed and D’Eath give the impression that they see the glass as half full rather than half empty. And with In the Groove, they have made a consistently engaging contribution to roots rock, Americana and folk-rock.Alex Henderson
Him & Her In The Groove. Type of music: Blues/Jazz/Folk
Overall impressions: Extremely impressive music. Combines all the likeable music of all ages as it sends you on a teaching journey through each song.
How does this CD or song compare to others by this group or artist?
Extremely marketable music. Saw visions of some songs in music scores as I was listening. Saw other songs used in training/teaching workshops as I was listening.
Rate on a scale of 1-10
Element of Surprise: The harmonica
Album likability 8
Him & Her In The Groove: Him & Her In The Groove comes straight from the heart. Optimism pours out of the album as these are songs of devotion. Brenda Freed’s voice possesses great power evoking the sound of a old friend. Nicely adding to the sound is Michael D’Eath’s harmonica, whose inclusion into the laid-back mellow grooves is pitch-perfect. Colorful in nature, Him & Her do particularly fine in setting up memorable melodies with gentle rhythm.
“Don’t Let the Sun Go Down” explores the imagery that surrounds a person. The love expressed is palpable as Brenda Freed sings of the simple joys of life that so often go overlooked. As the song progresses with its languid tempo the song’s bluesy style serves as a perfect accompaniment to the dreamier imagery. On “You’ll Never Know” offers a look upon how the many comforts of life and how few of them are ever fully appreciated until things go wrong. Playful in nature is the pet-centric sweetness of “My Human Loves Me” devoted to a particularly fine dog. Elastic percussion defines the giddy energy of “Don’t Tell Me Lies”. By far the best track on the album is the soulful sound of “A Few Kind Words”. Keeping things remarkably tender the piece is a reflection upon how perfect simplicity can be. Bringing things to a soothing close is the elegant summery sounds of “Never Change Your Style”.
Lovely and pure, Him & Her In The Groove proves the importance of being earnest.Beach Sloth
Him & Her In The Groove: Loving this new release by Him & Her. An eclectic mix of songs, from my favorite – ‘Simple Words,’ a sad though-provoking song about abuse with amazing lyrics – to the pure fun of ‘My Human Loves Me’ written from the POV of a much beloved pet dog. Definitely recommend.Betsy Amy-Vogt
Songwriters In The Round, Day 14 – The Kerrville Folk Festival has famously attracted performing songwriters as audience its entire forty-four years. Read my previous post about why this may be so. This year, one evening on the Threadgill stage was given to six such professionals, musicians who play hard in their own home towns, then attend KFF (for twenty years or more) to be heard around the campfires. Him & Her, the collaboration of songwriter, guitarist-vocalist Brenda Freed and harmonica player Michael D’Eath, delivered the bluesy freedom statement “Train I’m On” and romantic “Picture of Love” among their numbers. I was especially ready for Brenda’s new “I Saw You In A Falling Star,” a sweet tribute with the musicality of early 1900’s Americana. Bernice Lewis‘s “I Wanna Be In The Band” was a welcome slice of a girl musician’s story. Rob Lytle shared gentle humor with “Daddy Was A Boy Once,” and so did Martin Swinger with “Betty Boop And Buda” and “Little Plastic Part.” The versatility and camaraderie of the players was enjoyable, as Michael and Doug Coppock accompanied on harp and guitar, respectively, and Brenda, Rob and Martin harmonized. I caught Rob after the concert. He felt that the coherence of the assembled songs, the easy collaboration of the artists, was a matter of these pros being of similar mind. No longer overly concerned with their careers as a reason to be at the festival, they were free to share. http://everybodysfolkmusicblog.org/page/2/Review of Him & Her 2015 Kerrville Folk Festival In The Round Performance by Jenni Mansfield Peal
Remember Brenda Freed, the songbird from Blanco who once played Specht’s Store and other venues in the San Antonio area? She is now working in a duo called Him & Her with Michael D’Eath, her harmonica playing husband, and the two are currently promoting their first cd, a 14-song work titled On Solid Ground. Action Magazine has never purported to be a music magazine which recommends or decries anyone’s work, so the traditional record reviews column has never been a part of this publication. But like its title cut, Freed and D’Eath have released a recording of original Texas music which is a solid demonstration of both vocal and instrumental talent. Brenda’s voice is pleasing, her lyrics are crisp and thoughtful, and D’Eath doesn’t commit the crime most prevalent among amateur harp players. He is a pro who has worked with Texas greats such as Shake Russell and Jon Inmon, and he doesn’t override his wife’s voice with an instrument which can kill a vocalist if it is not played correctly.Sam Kindrick, Action Magazine!!!!
Kudos on the new record. LOVE your vocals and songs. It’s fantastic and I’m honored you recorded “Sometimes.” Your version along with Michael is really beautiful. Everything about your new record is wonderful. The CD has a great vibe and the artwork matches it!Terri Hendrix, Grammy Winning Singer/Songwriter, Multi-instrumentalist
Him & Her On Solid Ground is musically rich with arrangements that explore the depth of the duo’s musical collaboration on their eclectic and entertaining original work. Brenda’s voice is lovely and Michael’s harmonica style is mature and complements her range of vocal styles.Jenni Mansfield Peal, KNON FM Dallas, TX
Him & Her On Solid Ground is beautifully produced and showcases genuine talent and sweet regard for each others’ gifts. Their work is definitely on solid ground.Steve Gillette, Singer/Songwriter
Him & Her explore an intimate sound On Solid Ground. Perfectly balanced as a duo, Brenda Freed’s sunlit voice intermingles perfectly with Michael D’Eath’s expressive harmonica. Together the two of them create cheerful, memorable melodies. Neatly incorporating elements of folk, jazz, and blues, the songs work together, each with their own specific color helping to paint a lovely picture. Emotionally the album maintains a jaunty attitude, tapping into a well-developed sense of optimism. Starting off with the gentle guitar of “Picture of Love”, the song embodies the best attributes of twee pop, right down to the carefully selected lyrics. Taking a slower and more introspective tone on “Gotta Get Over You” Him & Her explore the sadness that follows the end of a relationship. “Forward Kinda Gal” displays their considerable range and make the song one of the album’s highlights. Jubilant, “Band of Angels” describes the positive effects of faith. With a slight lilt “My Oh My” has bossa nova inflections through the guitar work, and Michael D’Eath’s harmonica has an ethereal quality to it. A steady rhythm anchors “Train I’m On” as the earnest piece presents a fond farewell and what it means to move forward. Crisp guitar work and immaculately produced “Mr. Texas” serves as a gentle lullaby. Ending off the album on a playful note is the relaxed title track. Keeping the tone low-key these are songs for seasons of growth, for the spring and summer. The songs on Him & Her’s “On Solid Ground” possess that reassurance that everything can be okay, it simply takes time and patience.Beach Sloth
On Solid Ground delivers 14 breathtaking tracks which entertain us with Brenda’s impressive vocal talents and mastery of the guitar. Picture Of Love treats us to the delights of Brenda’s beautiful and uplifting vocals. Down to the Pool features a wonderfully catchy instrumental arrangement and the lyrics paint a picturesque landscape. Gotta Get Over You is a Blues flavoured melody with deep and heartfelt lyrics. Forward Kinda Gal serves up catchy beats and a beautiful blend of Jazz and Blues…Band of Angels is a fast paced melody with lyrics that are chock full of emotional depth…A Few Kind Words presents a smooth instrumental arrangement and Brenda’s soft vocals. Train I’m On showcases a subtle melody with first class vocals and cheerful lyrics. Light as a Feather dazzles us with verses that create a breath taking work of art. Sometimes has a somber feeling to it, with its slow tempo and sad lyrics. Walkin is the opposite of Sometimes with an upbeat feel all across the board and lyrics that are pure gold…On Solid Ground concludes the album with a catchy tune, sublime vocals and uplifting verses.Boulent Mustafa excerpts