Tom Freund has delivered a solo debut album that comes to the public (for the most part) fully grown. It's loaded with self-assured power, and more importantly, a confidence in the tunes themselves that's striking. The feel of the album is steeped in Americana, with references to and influences by Holden Caufield, Jack Kerouac, and Bob Dylan. Some of Freund's vocals -- and in fact the general musical approach on the album -- is reminiscent of early Tom Waits. There are some excellent guest musical appearances on the record, most notably by jazz great Jimmy Smith on organ. Freund's early background includes stints with the L.A. band the Silos, as well as an excellent duet album with Ben Harper called Pleasure and Pain, which came out on the Cardas label. North American Long Weekend has indeed had a long gestation period, but it was well worth it. Freund's songs speak of searching for understanding and meaning in life, but they never sink into heavy-handed moralizing. The sound of the record is quite amazing to behold, and thanks to producer Margin Etzioni and engineer David Vaught, you have one of the best-sounding roots-oriented releases of this decade. The material is what really matters here, and what you will hear is first-rate.