The Coffee Shop Comes Home
Sometimes, you travel a very long way to try very many things only to find you are still who you were in the beginning. Tom Brosseau has seen a lot of the world. Born in Grand Fork, North Dakota, he now makes his home in Los Angeles and has travelled far and wide in pursuit of his many music acts and associations (such as with Becky Stark and John C. Reilly of John Reilly & Friends), including nine previously released albums. But this is his first solo release in five years. His sparse arrangements of timeless Americana originals on his tenth issue Grass Punks keeps the listener’s interest without ever closing the deal.
Set in simple arrangements with one or two guitars, Brosseau’s voice is high, sweet and a little thin. What his singing lacks in strength, it makes up for in expressiveness: it cannot be said that Brosseau does not believe what he is telling you. It is just that the telling is not that compelling. While the first few tracks of the album are interesting–especially the witty and bouncy opening track “Cradle Your Device”– the album just never seems to make its point.
That is not to say there is not some good material here. “I Love to Play Guitar” is surprising and warm, in a song-in-the-round sort of way. Next, “We Were Meant to Be Together” is a nice little love song, happily marrying joy and regret. Finally, “Green Shampoo” is a song you’d love to hear a few guitar heroes collaborate on in the popular round format. With baroque tendencies, one could hear a long session of counter playing melodies and counters.
But that’s also what is missing from Grass Punks; it sounds like a recording of coffee shop fare. There isn’t much in the record that demands a studio. One wonders if a better setting would have been with a live audience and a few collaborators. Alas, we’ll never know…