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A capella country band Home Free releases stunning debut album

Ellen Kan, Thomas Jefferson HS for Science and Technology, Alexandria, Va.

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An astonishing sensation swept the nation when the fourth season of “The Sing-Off” finally returned in December 2013 after a two-year hiatus. This unexpected but enthralling magic came in the form of Home Free, the world’s first country a capella ensemble.

Originally from Minnesota, Home Free took “The Sing-Off,” an a capella singing competition hosted by the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), by storm. The quintet, consisting of Austin Brown, Tim Foust, Rob Lundquist and brothers Adam Rupp and Chris Rupp, captured the hearts of the judges and audience with their crisp arrangements, soothing harmonies and splendid voices.

Less than a month after walking away with the coveted Sony Music recording contract and $100,000 cash prize, Home Free has released their debut album, titled “Crazy Life.”

The album, which is composed of four original songs and seven cover arrangements, began live-streaming on the band’s website on Jan. 10. Although the CD is not available for purchase until Feb. 18, the songs were officially released on Jan. 13 on iTunes. On release day, “Crazy Life” captured the number one spot on the iTunes country albums chart, and it broke into the top five for all albums.

The bombshell song from the album is definitely the irresistible arrangement of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.” “Ring of Fire” originally appeared on The Sing-Off, and Foust brought the crowds and judges to their feet with his booming bass. The rendition in “Crazy Life” features a mind-blowing treat in the form of Avi Kaplan, the highly-esteemed bass from Pentatonix, winners of The Sing-Off third season and trailblazers in mainstream a capella. Kaplan’s mellow tones and throaty low notes complement Foust’s voice wonderfully in the cleverly-arranged “bass-off.”

“Crazy Life” does an excellent job in showcasing each member’s talents in just 11 songs. I have been a fan of from day one of The Sing-Off because of his unbelievable range of nearly five octaves, and to my delight he sings several solos and even acts as the lead vocalist in several songs in addition to “Ring of Fire.” Equally talented is Adam Rupp, the quintet’s vocal percussionist, who effortlessly delivers flawless sequences to hold down every arrangement.

Brown, Home Free’s frequent frontman, also possesses one of the most beautiful voices I have heard in a long time; smooth as butter, his splendid tenor voice takes every song to a whole new level, as is evident in his soaring solo in “Ring of Fire.” Lundquist, also gifted with a rich tenor voice, has the ability to both round out harmonies and lead with smooth melodies.

And finally, I was very glad to hear Chris Rupp step into the spotlight for Home Free’s rendition of “A Little Bit of Everything,” originally performed by Keith Urban. Rupp, the group’s founder and primary arranger, often takes a backseat to his fellow vocalists, so it was lovely to hear his baritone outside of the harmonies for the first time.

The members of Home Free pride themselves in being the first professional, country a capella band, but I dare say they will go much farther than that. Their music, which flirts with jazz and reggae in addition to country, has a universally-appealing feel that is so hard to find these days. This is evident in their popular cover of Avicii’s “Wake Me Up,” which is immensely pleasing despite deviating significantly from the original.

I would be hard-pressed to find any criticism with “Crazy Life,” except for the fact that 11 songs simply are not enough to showcase Home Free’s extraordinary talent. According to countless YouTube comments and iTunes reviews, Home Free has converted countless listeners who previously disliked country music. The vocal band is certainly revolutionizing the genres of both country and a capella, and I can’t wait to see how far they will go in the next few years.

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