Purchase includes CD booklet signed by the band.
In country music, there are endless debates about what kind of instrumentation really defines the genre as it constantly updates itself and divides into traditional and contemporary factions. Home Free found an ingenious way to get around those kinds of arguments: just ditch the instrumentation altogether. Their five members are all about what has always inarguably been at the core of country music: the human voice.
That Home Free is country music’s only real a cappella group is a novelty that, on the radio or on record, might only occur to listeners after the fact, since arrangements that are so fully fleshed out — and we do mean fleshed out, as opposed to machined out — have a way of tricking the ear. In concert, of course, it’s a different story: all at once, from first row to last, jaws drop at the first sight of all those throats in action, followed by nodding, dancing and even crying as the group’s powerful musical storytelling unfolds.
Home Free are returning with their fourth studio album, Dive Bar Saints, and there are a lot of new wrinkles to their story. But that most critical element remains intact. Listening to the leadoff track, “Remember This,” you might wonder if they’ve finally just given in and added instrumentation to their previously all-vocal catalog? Not to worry; that’s just an optical illusion. “We’re completely a cappella. At all times,” Tim Foust assures us, laughing that the question still comes up. Foust is the bass player of the group… the bass voice player, that is. “Never say never,” he adds, asked if they might ever consider giving Nashville’s finest studio musicians some employment, “but that’s what sets us apart. I mean, when we collaborated with Charlie Daniels, we let him play his fiddle, but that’s about it.”
So there’s no breaking news alert to be had there, on the all-vocals front. But Dive Bar Saints does have a few other fresh headlines for the group, as their first album since they took full control of their recording career. Home Free had been on a major label ever since finding national fame via NBC’s “The Sing-Off,” the a cappella competition show they won in 2013, after more than a decade on the road. This new album, though, is coming out on Home Free Records, which will be distributed by The Orchard globally. And it’s not just the imprint that’s changing as they take the reins. On Dive Bar Saints, 10 of the 12 tracks are newly penned songs — the greatest amount of original material they’ve ever included on an album — with two band members stepping up in a big way as featured co-writers.
Making an album of almost exclusively new tunes wouldn’t necessarily be such a huge deal for most other country acts, but for Home Free, there was the possibility that fans might see it as a violation of their prime directive, or at least a shift away from what they’ve come to know and love — which is that this is the only country group in the world that delivers joltingly fresh, new, all-vocal arrangements of well-known songs from in and out of the genre. So the group took it to the fans, asking them if they’d mind an album of predominantly unheard songs, and those devotees made their own voices heard: The “covers” part isn’t what we care about most — don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
“I really do feel like this is a turning point for us,” says Rob Lundquist, the group’s tenor harmony singer. “It’s the first time where we are going to have more original content than covers. It feels great now that we’ve had the community of songwriters actually coming to us and presenting us with songs that they wanted to be on the album. But it’s coming from within, too — Tim, our bass singer, co-wrote a couple of songs, and Austin Brown, our high tenor, co-wrote a couple songs.” Adds Brown, “Every time we have mentioned we have an album coming out and that it’s almost all originals, people explode. Lord knows we wouldn’t have expected that, but all signs point toward it being not just what fans want, but what they crave.”
Between the one-of-a-kind nature of the group, their established global appeal, and the types of theaters they usually play, Home Free are not exactly what you would call a “bar band.” From the fall of 2019 through the fall of 2020, they’ll be on their Dive Bar Saints World Tour, playing about a hundred shows in 16 nations, triumphantly returning to the UK for the fourth time and hitting other European countries like Italy and Switzerland for the first. The U.S. leg of that tour will be capped off by a special two-night stand at Nashville’s iconic Ryman Auditorium. All to say: very few actual honky-tonks are on the itinerary.
But when it comes to the emotional grist of their material, they’re spiritually as much at home in the watering holes, where the stuff of life goes down every night, as they are headlining the “Mother Church of Country Music.” That’s why they can call their new album Dive Bar Saints: These songs represent the space where the sacred meets the everyday. Devastating breakups, rejuvenating pick-me-ups and God’s own harmonies will ensue in these 12 tracks.