Essential New Music: Dori Freeman’s “Letters Never Read”

On her 2016 self-titled debut, Dori Freeman addressed the downside of love with plenty of wit and uplifting melodies. There are more love songs on Letters Never Read—some luminous, some troubled—but her soulful singing lifts them all out of the doldrums and into a pleasing state of grace. On “Turtle Dove,” her voice embraces the blissful limitations of true love, channeling the spirit of Jim Reeves with the help of a shimmering vibraphone and Aoife O’Donovan’s heartfelt harmonies. The quiet, twang-heavy groove of “Make You My Own” is a classic love song made more passionate by Freeman’s understated delivery. Her tender vocal on “Cold Waves” balances feelings of hopelessness with a prayer for the deliverance that only true love can bring. It’s a remarkable performance. Producer Teddy Thompson brings in an impressive cast to support Freeman’s burnished vocals, including his dad, Richard, who lends his distinctive fretwork to her cover of his “I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight.”

—j. poet