Free to Grow solidifies their identity and place with the release of Imperfection, a beautifully balanced record full of earnest and finesse.
Whether you call it reinvention or evolution, Imperfection is the Free to Grow album we’ve been waiting for. It’s easily the band’s most focused and concise release to date, full of finely tuned arrangements that utilize the collective skills of all involved to bring the absolute most out of each song. That said, it’s also perhaps an album Free to Grow wasn’t capable of making until now.
Multi-instrumentalist Jeff Patch formed Free to Grow in 2013, and for the first half of the band’s existence it was seen by many to be Patch’s band. While deep down in the belly of the beast that still may be the case – Patch is still the group’s principal songwriter penning every track on this album himself with the welcomed addition of two co-writes with lead guitarist Joseph Bonnell – the perfection of Imperfection is a direct result of the album’s long list of performers.
Collaboration has always played an important role in shaping the band’s music. From the very beginning, Patch’s vision for what this band could become relied on multiple instruments and a variety of voices each contributing to a series of deeply layered melodies. And like any band as ambitious in size as FTG – Imperfection averages roughly eight musicians per track with few exceptions – it took a while for the band to develop a consistent lineup and a sound that isn’t so easily pigeonholed.
As they stand today, FTG’s core musicians include Patch on a range of instruments, Bonnell on electric guitar, bassist Larry LeBlanc and drummer James Rooney, with vocalists Amanda L. Moss, Catherine LeBlanc, Susan Thompson and Sherri Chenard. Add to this foundation notable guest appearances from a range of regional talent including Joshua Sangster, Tina Gaudreau, Bruce Hughes, Rachel Forbes, TC Richards, Conrad Mead, Katherine Moller, Don Rigley, Brenda Malley, Tammy Boyer, Danielle d’Entremont, Kayla-Renée Ossachuk and Rebecca Tremblay and things could start to become overwhelming. But that’s not the case. At least not with this album. Each instrument and each voice present on Imperfection bring something unique to these tracks without ever sounding like they don’t belong. On this album, FTG, for maybe the first time, sounds like an experienced ensemble well versed in arrangement and execution. They’ve got their band-craft dialed in.
Of the many guests that appear on the album, Honey Gut’s Joshua Sangster steals the show, leading five of the album’s eleven tracks. His vocal range, delivery and tone take Patch’s words to new heights and when paired with the choir of voices that accompany the opening track, Silence, help to lead a massive choral outpouring that introduces the power behind the majority of tracks to follow.
As is usually the case when so many musicians from so many backgrounds come together to create, the FTG foundation is a diverse one. The band takes elements of prog and classic rock and tastefully pull in bits and pieces of country and folk. These distinct characteristics help shape this latest release, guiding the band in a more focused direction that leans closer to rock and roll’s foundational elements than to any one subgenre. But that’s just today. That’s just right now. This band is ever-evolving. If early FTG releases found quick comparison to the likes of Mountain or Jethro Tull, FTG in 2020 has more in common with Page’s guitar than Anderson’s flute and Imperfection is proof.