Artist: Tom Brosseau
Album: Grass Punks
Release Date: 20th January 2014
Label: Tin Angel Records
Tom Brosseau, the self-styled troubadour from Grand Forks, North Dakota, released his album Grass Punks earlier this year through British independent label, Tin Angel Records. Grass Punks is the 7th album to come from the folk singer/songwriter, and is his first release in 5 years, following on from 2010’s Les Shelleys.
Before being asked to review his newest album, I had never heard of Brosseau, and I expect I’m not alone in this. Musically, he sounds like someone has taken the more traditional tone of a chart singer/songwriter, added a dollop of American folk influence, then stripped this down until what it most closely resembles is some sort of folk/shoegaze experiment.
Brosseau’s purity of voice is the redeeming feature of Grass Punks, with the guitar accompaniment lack-lustre, uninspired and almost unnecessary. Brosseau matches his vocal range to that of his guitar, harmonising well from the outset, but the focus and talent is still in Brosseau’s voice, but despite this, the lyrical content still drifts towards the side of nonsensical or rather basic, despite touching on the themes of emptiness, loyalty, betrayal and perseverance.
Opening with We Were Meant To Be Together, the album meanders lazily into Cradle Your Device, continuing its slow march track by track, often with little to distinguish between songs but the silence between each one. Cradle Your Device could certainly be said to be an early highlight of the album, before drifting along to Today Is Bright New Day in the middle of the album, demonstrating Brosseau’s considerable vocal range and finally finishing on I Love To Play Guitar, a song as slow and saccharine as you might expect, but I true display of Brosseau’s style and sound.
All in all, Grass Punks is more like a showcase than it is an album, showing off Tom Brosseau’s unique sound and tremendous voice, but feeling like it fails to go anywhere but in circles, with each song sounding too similar to the last, and not enough innovation or change within. With little else to judge it against but itself, I would say Grass Punks is initially interesting, but this rapidly wears off the further down the folksy rabbit-hole we fall.
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