Saturday, December 22, 2007

Reviews:: Tom Brosseau Cavalier

It's an absolute miserable day here in Vancouver. Snow have made the roads impassable and as a result I'm stuck in our apartment instead of heading to Seattle to see Pete Bush & the Hoi Polloi (full disclosure - Pete was the best man at my wedding, but I love his songs). My wife's sleeping off her night shift and the world is feeling very cold. It's the holidays and you want to be around family and friends, not pelted by a mix of cold, wet snow and rain that keeps you locked inside.

Probably in attempt to enhance the feelings, I've spent the morning revisiting Tom Brosseau. Grand Forks, his cohesive theme record about the floods that ravaged his town in the 90's, made my top ten list but up until a few weeks ago I hadn't listened to Cavalier. The most immediate aspect of the new record is the beautiful cover. Resembling the old covers you'd see from Black Sparrow press, you begin to feel Brosseau's inspiration might becoming more from Fante than Fahey.

Cavalier is a collection of more traditional songs from Brosseau. The full backing band and guest stars are gone, as is almost any sound except Tom's unique, high pitched voice and his picked guitar notes. But Cavalier highlights the difference between simple and simplistic. His words, while sticking to the common folk themes of love, loss, and the devil, challenge you and never seem cliche. He paints detailed stories and his guitar, while consistent never falls victim to predictability. His voice is pushed high into the mix, grabbing the spotlight allowing his notes to drift along. Hundreds of artists make the mistake of thinking creating records like this is easy, and consistently fall short.

The album opener, Amory, seems like a song you could have heard 40 years ago when people had the time and patience to listen to artists tell a tale. But the song adds a recorder, some distorted keyboard and lo-fi horns. The mood of the song never changes, the subtle shift just adds a subtle wrinkle.

Committed To Memory is pushed along by a tapped guitar body percussion and some sharp guitar strums and steel work, but they never seem to be more than an accompaniment for Brosseau's voice. The eerie piano that sets the mood on My Heart Belongs To The Sea only stays around long enough to craft an emotion, and leaves the heavy lifting to Brosseau's weary narrative.

The record is not one you can sit down and fully comprehend in a few listens. You aren't pushed along by a constant theme, instead it's a more fragmented, honest portrayal of the emotions of pain and doubt. The quickened pace of My Peggy Dear has Tom left speechless and alone, trying to make sense of it all. His train of thought goes from a moment of hurt when his girl walks away to a train trip where he sees the land reveal itself to him. Life is nothing but a collection of moments, and this record shows Brosseau remembering some of his most painful.

MP3:: Amory

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Posted at 1:16 PM by ack :: 0 comments

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