Beyond The Groove: Freddy & Francine Back For An Encore, 9/1

Anyone who heard Freddy & Francine (aka Lee Fields & Bianca Caruso) at the 44th annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival in June knows the Americana-Soul duo came, saw, and conquered. In other words, we fell in love with them and they with Telluride. And now thanks to Denise Mongan of Beyond the Groove Productions and TMVOA, they are back just a few short months later for an encore. The show is part of Mongan’s Live Music on the Green on Reflection Plaza just outside Madeline Hotel & Residences. If you heard them the first time, you will want to hear them again. If you missed the Bluegrass gig, catch them this time: Friday, September 1, starting at 5 p.m.

Below is the narrative we posted about Freddy & Francine just prior to Telluride Bluegrass.

Please scroll all the way down for a sample of the duo in action. 

Two voices with a palpable chemistry, one acoustic guitar, two stomping feet, a down-to-earth vibe.

The Americana-Soul duo known as Freddy & Francine met in 2007 in the 40th anniversary revival of the counter culture Broadway blockbuster “Hair” and then went on – and I am fast-forwarding here – to become perhaps “the most talked about act at our Folks Festival in Lyons last August,” at least according to one reliable source, Brian Eyster, a musician and the marketing guru at Planet Bluegrass.

In praising Freddy & Francine – aka Lee Ferris and Bianca Caruso – to the skies, Eyster is singing harmony with a chorus of  critics:

“Ferris and Caruso have found their respective vocal soulmates, the kind of perfect harmonies that send a gripping shiver down the backbone of the listener,” raved The Deli Magazine.

“Freddy & Francine currently top my list. There is definitely a palpable chemistry between these musicians, with their vocals blending like milk and honey,” said No Depression.

“National audiences continue to be drawn to the duo as they “bring it all out on stage from a lullaby so sweet you’d swear a choir of angels were harmonizing just for you; to gut-busting, foot stomping tunes befitting a New Orleans gospel choir,” wrote the Flagstaff AZ Daily Sun.

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They also say Bianca sounds like Aretha Franklin, whose powerful, passionate voice could go from smoky and dark to a belting range. Lee is aligned with the legendary Van Morrison, whom John Lee Hooker once described as “my favorite white blues singer.” Expect similar unexpected phrasing, growls, and ululations.

Heady stuff for this burgeoning folk/pop duo, whose sound blends soul, R&B, folk, and Americana with a modern, yet timeless appeal – like Streisand?, Sinatra? or better, Bonnie & Delaney?– to all ages.

But harmony and understanding was not always the way it was for Freddy & Francine because real life does not always play according to the rules. Their path to imminent Sonny & Cherdom was anything but straight and narrow.

In “Hair” the couple clicked; very soon they were writing original music together. Their initial defining moment came when Lee asked Bianca to join him onstage to sing one of their co-compositions, a song entitled “Over and Over.” They dubbed their sound “50s prom rock” and assumed a new persona, calling themselves Freddy & Francine to capture the spirit of the super cutesy pop vibe in the air around L.A. at the time. Their newfound fanbase played along, calling out to the duo by their adopted handle. For better or for worse, the name stuck.

A self-titled debut EP appeared in 2008, following by a full-length set entitled The Briar Patch. Recorded over the course of nine days at a cabin in northern Arizona and largely self-produced, the album was an immediate success, courtesy of airplay on the influential L.A. radio station KCRW, which also named one of its songs, “Brownstone Alley,” its Top Tune of the day.

However Freddy & Francine were together on stage only; they were not yet romantically involved. Tinder became fire in 2010 with the release of the next album, The Forest and the Sea.

“In many ways, that album was autobiographical,” Lee reflected. “We had written these songs before we realized we had feelings for one another. In the past we had assumed certain fictional characters in order to inhabit our material. But with this album we were stepping into new roles, as ourselves. It was subconscious at first, but it soon became evident that what we were doing was wrestling with a sense of entanglement and struggling with ways to keep our distance and preserve our boundaries while still facing the fact that we were now totally romantically dependent on one another.”

“It was a kind of catharsis,” Bianca recalled. “It helped us make sense of the things that were playing out between us. It plotted out a course for the future.”

Except it did not: after a sold-out release party, Freddy & Francine broke up, personally and professionally. The pause between the inhale and the exhale lasted about three-and-a-half years.

The ice was broken when Bianca decided to record a solo album she dubbed Bravado. In it was a song called “I Wanna Go Home With You,” which she and Lee had co-written several years before. That led to her asking Lee to join her in the studio and Poof!, in an instant, their innate chemistry won the day and the pair were making sweet music together again.

Since then, Freddy & Francine have put out two releases: Gung Ho (2016) and an EP, Don’t Just Stand There, in early 2017.

“Sometimes a romantic relationship can lead to great art…  and sometimes the end of that relationship can lead to even greater art. But when a fractured professional couple get back together, at least to make music, it can be amazing. And that’s the case with Gung Ho, the newest release from Freddy & Francine (who are really Lee Ferris and Bianca Caruso). Having parted and spending considerable time apart, this new offering is quite a staggering collection of songs…,” wrote popdose.com

With featured sets scheduled this year at the 2017 Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Sisters Folk Fest and more, plus past headlining performances at Rocky Mountain Folks Fest, Sisters Folk Fest, and Madison Square Park, could it be the dawning of the age of Freddy & Francine?

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Susan Viebrock

Susan Viebrock

Susan is Telluride Inside… and Out’s founder and editor-in-chief, the visionary on the team, in charge of content, concept and development. For 19+ years, Susan has covered Telluride’s cultural economy, which includes non-profits and special events. Much of her writing features high-profile individuals in the arts, entertainment, business, and politics. She is a former Citibank executive specializing in strategic planning and new business development, and a certified Viniyoga instructor.

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