"AROUND SUNOL" by BREE K. JAMES


November 11, 2002

A FREEBO CONCERT is like being entertained by a really talented family friend. At his show Oct. 25 at Little Valley Vineyard's Bistro, Freebo learned people's names, chatted with everyone from the stage, and jumped into table conversations. And of course, he played and sang to great appreciation through two sets.

Freebo may be best known as a member of Bonnie Raitt's band, in which he played bass and toured for over ten years. He plays guitar, bass, 8-string ukulele and tuba, and has performed in countless studio sessions for the likes of John Mayall, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Maria Muldaur and Ringo Starr. He did not release his first album as a singer-songwriter until 1999. Writing down his feelings in the form of lyrics and putting them to music, he said, finally brought to reality his dream of "complete creative expression."

If his songs and talk are any indication, Freebo has three passions: dogs, peace, and sports. His latest CD, "Dog People," is all dog songs, with both original compositions and covers of great dog songs, from the traditional "Old Blue" to "Lester" by New Zealand rocker Neil Finn. The album was inspired by Freebo's golden retriever, Garbo, and it's clear that his dog is this man's best friend.

"Unconditional love, endless joy of the moment, and unwavering faithfulness," are the three canine qualities that move Freebo to poetry and song. "Dogs are in the now," he said, "and there is a lot to be learned from them." The musician also has an unbridled sense of humor, as demonstrated in two of his original tunes, "Shaggy," told from a dog's point of view, and "My Dog Has Fleas," an audience sing-along that got us all going.

Of course, with him going on like that about dogs, somebody was bound to bring up our late, great mayor, Bosco. Freebo hadn't heard of our canine celebrity, but, boy, was he interested once the subject came up! Suzanne Van Fleet, helped along by Judy Bettencourt, Irv Tiessen and myself, told several hilarious stories about Bos, including the time he wandered off in search of love and radio stations reported that "Sunol's mayor was missing."

It is part of Bosco's legend that he had his own corner of the stage on which Freebo stood, back in the days when the place was the Sunol Lounge. This news prompted Freebo to begin extemporizing lyrics with help from the audience, such as, "Bosco the dog was Mayor of Sunol, he loved to drink beer from his doggie bowl." Yeah, we all got pretty silly, but that's the kind of casual, personal atmosphere both Freebo and the Bistro encourage.

Several times during the evening, Freebo called our gathering a "seminar," and engaged us all in discussion about whatever came up. We helped one patron figure out how to handle her too-chatty aerobics instructor, were encouraged to attend a peace rally that weekend, and participated in a vote on which of two ladies was sober enough to drive home.

His song, "Yogi," a tribute to Yogi Berra, attests to Freebo's love of sports. He wrote it in 1986, the year the L.A. Angels ended up one out from being in the World Series. He told us he has always played and followed sports, which might explain why, in his fifties, Freebo is still long and lean with energy to spare. He tried to get us going about the Giants-Angels series that week, but was informed that most of us in the room were pretty "sports impaired." He seemed to like us anyway.

There were also several lovely songs about love and loss in his sets, including the especially beautiful "Before This Feeling's Gone," from his first album, "The End of the Beginning". Sweet, sad or sassy, each number moved and delighted the audience. As Bistro owner Sandi Bohner was celebrating a birthday a few days after the show, Freebo played "Happy Birthday" to her twice - once on the guitar, and once on the tuba! He can also whistle and sing at the same time. He's a gifted, caring and charming guy, someone you'd really like to hang out with. We hope he comes back soon - we can't wait to hear the song he's going to write about ol' Bosco. You can learn more about Freebo at www.freebo.com.

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