I love this photograph of Dori
Dori Freeman performed with Scott Freeman, her dad, and Willard Gayheart, her grandpa, at the Fiddle and Plow Show at the Front Porch Gallery in Woodlawn. It was music to the full satisfaction of the entire audience, twenty or more, mostly people who are there every week. It's interesting how much of a group identity we have amongst ourselves by now. We were slow getting acquainted with each other, though after a few years we did become acquainted and by now we talk freely with each other. This evening before the show, I went around and spoke to several, and during intermission I spent the whole time talking with some of the people I've become acquainted with there. It seems like we're all so well acquainted by now we know each other almost as friends, because we're the ones who love Willard and Scott's music and the music of the people they bring in to play there. We who have been going regularly since the beginning, about 3 years ago, have seen Dori develop her performance on stage singing for an audience. I don't know how she sees it from her own perspective, but I have seen her rise up from a self-conscious girl who wasn't sure she really wanted to sing in front of people. She began to sing with a little better self-assurance with each performance. She would go to the front, sing a couple of songs and leave.
Every time she gave a performance, she was a little bit better than the time before. Better in that she was more comfortable singing before several people. There came a time when she passed from a self-conscious singer to one who sings outward, projects her singing to the listeners with assurance she is connecting and she's not being judged. By tonight I was delighted to see/hear Dori opening up even further as a result of increasing stage appearances. She sang at last year's Wayne Henderson Festival as a featured guest. She gave a terrific performance. It was a big crowd. I was thinking it must be intimidating for her, such a big crowd, and she handled it beautifully. I noticed in the big audience of people who had never heard her or heard of her a hush run through the crowd and all eyes and ears were on Dori from just about one minute after she started. Scott with mandolin, Edwin Lacy banjo, Steve Lewis guitar, Mike Gayheart bass, and Dori with guitar gave the appearance of a bluegrass band when they came onto the stage and positioned themselves with their mics. Dori started singing her kinda Peggy Lee style, a moment of broken expectation ran through the audience, like they weren't expecting this. As quickly as the audience heard what she was doing, she had them. The entire audience focused attention on her the same as at Woodlawn with an audience of fifteen or twenty.
I've seen every time I have witnessed one of her performances that the people in the audience give her their literally undivided attention. She has a charisma that holds your attention just by her appearance on the stage. It's not just her looks, not just her hair, not just her guitar; her entire presence seems to hold an audience's attention. Every audience I've been in that heard Dori perform has loved her. After the Henderson fest, I felt it would be to her benefit to have an idea that she has a charisma she's not able to see from inside herself. I could see she had no idea of it. It seemed to me like she needed to know in her beginning, something to boost her self-confidence, and it's not something everybody has. It's a gift is the only way it can be named. I felt like it would serve her to know it, so I ok'd myself to tell her. It's one of those things artists of any sort cannot see in themselves; it takes somebody outside themselves to point to it, feedback. I didn't want to give her the bighead, and knew Dori well enough that I did not believe it would give her the bighead. She's given several stage performances at different venues, even the Carter Fold, and I don't see her with a swollen cranium. I meant for her to have the observation of her charisma to be a kind of tool she can use consciously. A year later, my sense is that she has a self-confidence in performance now, possibly somewhat assisted by her own recognition of her natural stage charisma, along with increasing stage experience finding that audiences really like what she is doing. Every show is that many more people in her growing fan base.
Dori is also a good short story writer, a very good short story writer. She is now writing songs as her musical talent is taking hold and pulling her in that direction. She gives a vocal performance with the same feeling of her writing. Her writing is clear and visual without any unnecessary words. I've read three of her stories, each one in awe. I was in awe that a young woman, then 19, was writing with such a mature style. She writes like somebody with a good many years writing experience. She came out of high school writing like she'd been doing it for a very long time. Her writing, too, has a kind of charisma in that I read it with fascination. She writes a song as good as songwriting gets. Her singing is trim and spare like her writing. I was noting at this performance how she brings Sara Carter to mind in her outwardly expressionless singing, like Ralph Stanley too, traditional mountain style. The point is, it's the delivery of the song from the heart through the voice. It doesn't need facial and other physical gyrations to make it's point. Everything is in the words. Like Sara Carter and Ralph Stanley, Dori Freeman doesn't take the cheap way of making a spectacle. Her vocalizing the words is all the song needs. She tells the story in song.
I don't like to project future expectations on her. I like appreciating her as I hear her. She brings to mind my year and a half old baby friend, Vada, who I see once a week. Every time I see her she's a little bit different, a little more confident of herself in a baby's body in a world where everything is new. I've seen Dori grow very much like I've watched baby Vada grow. In both cases it is largely a coming into awareness of a new life. Dori is growing into her life as a musical vocalist a little bit more self-confident every time I experience one of her performances. I won't live long enough to watch Vada grow up into a woman, and I won't live long enough to see Dori the Emmy Lou Harris of her generation. In Vada I see the woman in the baby, I see the woman she will be, and in Dori I see the singer who commands big audiences in her beginnings. Therein I find satisfaction. I have full confidence that thirty years from now Vada will be a remarkable woman. Like her mother in that way. And Dori thirty years from now will be a very widely respected singer, songwriter, guitar player and possibly short story writer too. Maybe even novels by then. The one thing I know is that both women in their maturity will be remarkable human beings in their own ways. That makes me happy. Gives me satisfaction.