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5stars 

Glee Club, Cardiff Bay, Wed 25 Jan

This little corner of Cardiff became downtown Nashville for a night as popular, first-ever country a cappella vocal band Home Free rode in and lassoed everyone’s hearts. Ooo-eee! They’re as fine as frog’s hair. Austin Brown (first/high tenor), Adam Chance (baritone), Tim Foust (bass), Rob Lundquist (tenor) and original member/co-founder Adam Rupp (beatbox/percussion sounds) flew the flag for country and western tinged with a smattering of pop, soul and rap. And even though they’re proud to be from the good ol’ US of A, they kept it a political-free zone, thank you kindly.

The 2013 Sing-Off victors got the ball rolling with a mix of two songs made famous by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Little Big Town – Fishin In The Dark and Boondocks, respectively. These were arranged seamlessly, and that’s how the show went. Different voices blended into one.

More covers followed, including atmospheric Eagles hit Seven Bridges Road, Rock Me Mama aka Wagon Wheel (co-written by Bob Dylan) and a wowzer of the Oak Ridge Boys’ ode of love to a street, Elvira. Especially fun was Wagon Wheel because it had a bit of Song Of The South tossed in, and the guys encouraged an audience singalong. Yes, please pass some sweet potato pie!

The Southern charm continued with an original composition by Foust and producer/arranger Darren Rust, Dont It Feel Good, sung sweetly and sassily by Brown upfront – newest member Chance and Lundquist in particularly perfect unison. Brown took the lead, also, on co-authored California Country, about his transition to West Coast living – again, done bourbon-smooth. Each member has a distinctive voice but are a powerhouse together.

For a change-up, they went funky (Lundquist so on point on high), doing versions of Snapback and of a selection of songs devoted to women’s derrieres because “Home Free celebrates curves.” The bountiful butt medley comprised Queen’s Fat Bottomed Girls and others, the boys showing off their line dancing steps and more. At the risk of sounding like Mary Whitehouse, while not as pure as the driven snow, this was down-home sexy without being crass, and the crowd went wild.

Continuing in the rap vein, Rupp took to the stage solo and demonstrated his prowess with some of the best beatboxing this side of the Mississippi. The things that he can do with…well, don’t make me blush. Among the songs Foust took by the horns was another of his titled Champagne Taste (On A Beer Budget), a favourite (and one I’m sure many women of discerning taste can relate to) and an outstanding rendition of Johnny Cash’s Ring Of Fire. Now I’ve heard Motown dudes go low, but he really gets down there.

Closing things up, Home Free went off-mike for How Great Thou Art with tenor Rupp joining in, and even though I’m not religious, their absolutely pristine sound made me and my friend well up (and I suspect everyone else, too). The sold-out crowd – some coming from as far as Denmark and Norway – gave the group a fitting standing ovation.

Mike White, 19, a Cardiff Uni chemistry major, said he loves their harmonies. “I have a deep voice, and I sing along with Tim. I didn’t know I was a fan of country until I heard them.” He thought the concert was “outstanding and remarkably innovative.”  He also likes a cappella because “It’s pure talent, no autocue.”

So true, I second that emotion! Victor Montero, 29, a writer for Spanish-language Triple VM Magazine, said he likes Home Free because “The sound is very clear. Each one of them has a shining sound. A strong point is Tim plus Austin. They both became one amazing frontman.” Well, this city-slicking Yankee has become a convert to the church of Home Free. Hey fellas – y’all come back now, y’hear?

words RHONDA LEE REALI photos OLENA NOELLE LYSENKO

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  • Kathy

    Thank you so much for the wonderful review!! We Home Fries are very proud of Home Free and love it when others feel the same.

  • Catz

    Great review. Thank you. As a Home Fry I am very proud of the guys and are so happy when other people feel the same way. I see them every chance I get, watch the videos when I can, and listen to their music every day.