By Terry Roland
What is to follow is a highly
fictionalized account of the life of characters which exist only in the
life and mind of singer-songwriter, Laura Freeman. Which facts are true
may be unclear to the reader, but still read on. One thing is true, Laura
Freeman should not be regarded as 'just' a writer and performer of children
songs, but as a talented performance artist and musician who adults will
enjoy as well. So, if you dare continue to read, see if you can find the
real Laura Freeman.
A Short Biography of Luna
There are strange goings-ons
in Austin these days. If you go there, beware. But, no need to worry about
vampires, werewolves or even right-wing neo-cons. No, but there is a woman,
playing a man dressed as a woman; a torch singer of uncommon wit with a
forever broken heart. She is the very definition of a woman of the night
and her name is Luna Tart. She wears a beret, hangs out in smokey dark
cabarets and sings in her tortured voice about the virtues of drag and
the men who have broken her heart. Each time she hits the stage,
she brings of a piece of her heart that has been torn out by some cruel
lover. She seems to think she lives in Berlin in the 30's. She may be the
mentor of Marlene Dietrich or she may be her illegitimate child born on
some foggy night in the backstage of dingy bar. But, she is there for the
taking. And she loves to tell her stories and sing her songs channeled
by a lady named.....Laura Freeman.
The Long Biography of Laura
Freeman, Woman Behind the Myth or the Mythe Behind the Woman . . . or,
Then, there is the person
behind the personae just mentioned; musician extraordinaire Laura Freeman--a
talented songwriter, dog lover, children musician. She is like a meteorite
when she is performing for children. She is a true Pied Piper of folk,
going into the world of children and engaging them in a way that will leave
most serious adults in her dust while the kids cheer, laugh and play with
more imagination and fun than they could imagine. Witness her YouTube videos
and you will see an artist who fully embodies her art with passion, wit
and a style all her own, which transcends age and generations. She will
not allow adults to do anything short of being kids again. From fan comments
on her website, she has made both adult and child conquests with her music
and live performances. If she is full of energy and she is not hesitant
to share it with others.
What is most impressive
about her recorded releases for children, including her debut A Baker's
Dozen, is she has recorded and written songs which will leave parents
returning to play her music long after the kids have been tucked into bed.
Her writing and music is of such good quality she can skip rope across
the age-bridge that separates us fromh her own original musical imagination.
There is a rainbow, which constantly follows her children music,
just as sure as there is a dark cloud which follows Luna Tart. Her
2005 release Color Wheel Cartwheel is a concept album about the
world of colors. It takes her audience through each color with its own
song and number with the term 'rainbow' in the language of people from
all over the world.
Prior to going into children
music, she found herself craving more than the music she was playing and
writing. She wanted something unique to herself. She began by playing songs
for the children in her neighborhood in New Orleans and discovered she
had a knack for it. Thus began her entertaining and magical dance
into music for children.
Though her album releases
are few, they are mighty. Her first album is for adults. Laura Freeman's
Greatest Hit in Her 20's and 30's displays her unique style of songwriting
and singing best described as a Sally Bowles meets Maria Muldar approach.
Baker's Dozen, her next, has titles like "Creepy, Crawly Stew,"
"Compost Heap," and "Little Yella Dog." Her song themes are original
imaginative and engaging with songs like "My Brother is a Monster," and
a journey into "Antarctica." In 2004, her song "Fruit Boogie" was included
on an the album Shaking it Up! With Fruits and Veggies, used in
Los Angeles Unified School District.
Her most recent release,
2009's Somersault Season, is themed around the seasons and physical
movement. The songs are meant to get the listener, child and adult alike,
to dance, march, walk and run. It works. I was chased out of Starbucks
by marching around the coffee shop without my shoes shouting, "My brother's
a monster and I'm a monster too!" After I was released from the state
hospital I continued to listen and found this to be one great record for
young and old alike.
Her approach is not the
kind of music that patronizes kids as though they are only capable of taking
in primary and blandly animated music. Rather, Laura surprises kids and
adults alike with highly skilled, excellent quality 20's and 30's ragtime
jazz and the liveliest of folk and jug band music.
Currently she tours the
Austin area with her band, The Hey Lolly Lollies, performing for children.
There is also the puppet show called, "Iris Saves The Land of Black and
White" that tells the story of the little girl Iris who must bring
color to a black and white land. This becomes a great vehicle for teaching
life lessons about the variety and diversity of experiences in the world.
According to the Austin Chronicle, Laura's show is consistently
about universality and the multi-culture nature of the entire world.
"Laura Freeman's monthly
children's music performances – often held at Ruta Maya cafe – coax wide
grins from the grumpiest. Her newest show, Color Wheel Cartwheel, sets
Roy G. Biv a-spinning in his rainbow footie pajamas. This happy, bouncy,
and poetic children's music is written and sung by our local redheaded
chanteuse, who leads the listener through the names of the colors of the
rainbow in nine different languages: English, Spanish, Dutch, Japanese,
French, Italian, German, Farsi, and Hindi, respectively. She trills about
the colors in tunes that mix the personalities of Patsy Cline and Carmen
Miranda. Recommended for the younger set and anyone who needs to bounce
around a-bopping without stopping." Austin Chronicle Best Of 2005
And let's not forget about
Luna. Remember her? Her album, Luna Tart Dies, was released in 2007.
It gives the listener a chance to hear the best of Ms. Tart's long and
colorful career. Though the music is meant to be tortured (thus, she is
a 'torch singer'), it also comes with a wink and smile from Laura Freeman
herself. In the YouTube clips of her on stage performance it's clear
Laura is having the time of her life and so is the audience.
But, do not commit the theatrical
sin of confusing Ms. Tart and Ms. Freeman. In the engaging 2007 release
Luna Tart Dies(she died of a broken heart), Freeman brings
a sense of shocking theater performance art to her material. It portrays
a woman who is self-possessed, or perhaps a more accurate term would be
self-obsessed. And this obsession is most clearly found in her desire for
fame. during the course of the album she joins a circus, finds a sugar
daddy, spends all of his money, finds her own lovers in the meantime and
then moans and moans about her broken heart when he dumps her. The instrumentation
on the album includes saloon pianos, trombones, accordions and even a toy
piano. The key here with both the album and her live show is, it's not
for children yet it is very entertaining and well done.
Laura would like to see
performance spaces for Luna Tart broaden from folk clubs because
she feels it is developing into a viable piece of theater. She certainly
captures the feeling of a character as well as any skilled performer. Indeed,
she recently completed a play with Rudy Ranireza, Luna Tart Dies
of a Broken Heart. It won the BEST of the FEST at the Austin Frontera
Fest in 2007.
With her her unique style
of performance art, Laura Freeman deserves to expand far beyond Austin
to the world of theater as well as her current venues. Her work with children's
music will continue. This is where she is best known. But, her alter ego
may emerge at any time with the need to vamp and tramp on a cabaret stage
filled with smoke and despair. Hopefully, this never happens at a children's
But, seriously now, Ms.
Freeman is a diverse and unique talent who will go far with her originality
and willingness to thoroughly absorb herself in her performances be it
for adults or children. She is the consummate troubadour being a jester,
musical clown of sorts and a genuine artist underneath the facade. And
when she says her real persona is the one she becomes in her children shows,
you can add, she is a wonderful lady as well.