REVIEW: Home Free – ‘Timeless’

A quick glance at the sales chart for this week’s US country albums shows Midland as the top sellers. No surprise there. A band enjoying the full support of Big Machine Records with masses of publicity, good and bad. However, pushing them very close on first week sales is Home Free who have released ‘Timeless’, their third album for Sony/Columbia excluding their successful Christmas albums. It’s their first studio album for two years.

In the meantime they have made amendments to their line up (co-founder Chris Rupp left the group and has been replaced by Adam Chance) and have continued their almost incessant touring schedule and social media presence. It’s helped them develop a very healthy following of devoted fans affectionately known as the ‘Home Fries’. Trust me, attending a Home Free live show is an event!

We have our own personal back story about these guys. They toured the UK at the beginning of the year. The ‘Your Life In A Song’ crew attended the Cardiff gig. Dan’s efforts to secure interviews that feature heavily on our site are often laborious and sometimes fruitless. Sometimes he gets ignored and sometimes it’s impossible to know who to ask. To cut a long story short, he didn’t secure an interview but we went to the gig anyway.

Through a friend of a friend, we managed to meet up with Tim who took us into the guys’ dressing room pre-show. Literally pre-show, i.e. 30 minutes before stage time and the guys who didn’t know us from Adam sit down for an impromptu interview. Apart from a bridge camera, we had no equipment but Austin offered us his personal shotgun microphone and we were good to go. Thanks to the Home Fries, that interview remains one of our most popular ever.

Pure class from these guys. Tim even sent Dan a text on our way home thanking us for coming and hoping that we had enjoyed the show. Little wonder that they generate such affection and loyalty from their fans.

However, you don’t reach their slot on the country music pecking order by merely being good guys. They also happen to be awesome singers and harmonisers. They are recognised as a covers band although they do write and produce their own material. A song covered by Home Free takes on a life of its own, such is the quality of their interpretation.

‘Timeless’ opens with one of Rascal Flatts’ most enduring songs. ‘Life Is A Highway’ was a song that Home Free performed on their big break, the ‘Sing Off’ finals in 2013. Rascal Flatts threw the kitchen sink into the production and instrumentation. Home Free rely upon their superb harmonies and Adam Rupp’s amazing beatboxing skills to produce a totally stripped back version. The package is so convincing that you will be examining the sleeve notes to check for band credits.

Tim Faust’s song writing comes to the fore with ‘It Looks Good’ an up-tempo, almost R&B styled foot tapper which Tim fronts himself before the guys’ impeccable harmonies create the Home Free magic.

We asked the guys what makes a good Home Free cover? How does the selection process work? Austin said that it was difficult to be specific. Some songs just feel ripe for their interpretation. Ed Sheeran’s ‘Castle On The Hill’ wouldn’t be an obvious candidate. It’s a song without any country connections but its reincarnation is stunning. The video that accompanies the song has attracted 630,000 YouTube views. One of the comments is worth repeating:

“If I were a hit singer I’d be praying “please god, don’t let Home Free cover one of my songs cuz I know they’d do it much better than I did”

I don’t suppose Mr Sheeran is losing any sleep but the point is a fair one. It’s also Adam Chance’s time to stand out from the crowd. He has gradually settled into his role within the band and his voice is first lead.

Maren’s ‘My Church’ and Keith’s ‘Blue Ain’t Your Color’ also receive the Home Free attention. They have both been crowd favourites at the live shows and been huge YouTube hits. ‘My Church’ has 4.5 million views! They do become very addictive!

My personal favourite has to be their cover of John Mayer’s ‘In The Blood’. I defy any band to create the vocal range that these guys effortlessly display. Tim Faust has a superb baritone voice and the harmonies are truly stunning. This is a superb cover of a great song. I can’t stop listening to it.

If there had to be one Home Free highlight over the last couple of years it would have to be their duet with Kenny Rogers on the Christmas classic ‘Children, Go Where I Send Thee’. They have delved way back again in reprising ‘Man Of Constant Sorrow’, first recorded by the Soggy Bottom Boys for the ‘Oh Brother, Where Art Thou’ soundtrack but its roots go back much further. Rupp’s impression of a didgeridoo is pure Home Free. I would love to see him performing this live!

In the US these guys sell out almost every show, yet there isn’t likely to be a place for them on country radio. When we debate the C2C line up, Home Free isn’t a name that we hear mentioned. They are almost a hidden secret apart from the many thousand ‘Fries’ who adore everything they do.

Well, I’m delighted to say that we are in on the secret. Go to a show next time they pay us a visit. For now, have a listen to this album. You won’t be disappointed.

Graham Wharton