Monday, January 29, 2007

Reviews:: Tom Brosseau Grand Forks

I first heard of Tom Brosseau on Songs Illinois. With all the blogs out there talking about the same thing, it must be said Songs Illinois consistently talks about artists you won’t find anywhere else. So when I read the words, “one of my favorites”, my interest was peaked.

Brosseau is a folk artist who uses a falsetto vocal range like a new wave band uses a bouncy synth riff. His voice sets tone, mood, energy and spirit. However, unlike so many of those new wave synth riffs, Brosseau’s voice is completely unique.

Tom’s new album – Grand Forks – is a 9-song album based on the flood of his home town in 1997. I am leery of labeling this a concept album, so I’ll just say that the songs are all tied together by the catastrophic event. After a few listens, the songs reminded me of Richard Russo’s classic novel, Empire Falls. The events tie together the lives of characters much more interesting than the situation and setting should allow. Instead of seeing the world through the eyes of the pessimistic and scared Miles Roby and the other residents of Empire Falls that have been knocked down by years of disappointment, you see the Grand Forks through a surprisingly optimistic set of eyes.

Nowhere is this clearer than the beautiful Plaid Lined Jacket. Brosseau’s description of a homeless man traveling around town finding possessions, covered in dirt, but proud of the state of his plaid lined jacket. No matter how much life knocks him down – his hurt hand, his sore foot, a nagging cough – he manages to look past all his hardships and hope for a future.

Instead of focusing on the tragedy, Brosseau creates unknowing heroes. On the steel laden I Fly Wherever I Go, his character simply starts bailing the waters from the flooded streets. There is no complaining, as you’d think is the case in most tragedies. Where the rest of the world is focused on the suffering, the residents simply do what they can to help, without thinking of reward or adoration.

His characters are honest and pure, and written without judgment. As the bouncy strings shape the portrayal of another homeless man, looking for a swig of hooch on Down on Skidrow, Brosseau is able to engage you with the simplicity of the character, as opposed to evoking pity.

This record won’t jump out of your headphones and draw you in, but like a great book you keep turning pages, or in this case, listening to the songs forming a bond with the narrator’s voice and characters.

MP3:: 97 Flood
Listen to some other tracks offered up by his label here

Posted at 12:11 PM by ack :: 0 comments

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