by Tom Brosseau on FatCat Records
Tom Brosseau evokes the simultaneous poignant darkness and simple resignation of pre-war North America with all the authenticity of a first-hand witness, but his songwriting is indelibly imbued with youth. We have – in new album ‘Posthumous Success’ (from which these two songs are taken) - Tom’s fullest record to date: an enchanting sabbatical from the predominantly vocal and guitar/ all-acoustic Delta-inspired recordings of previous records and a compelling nod to a more immediate musical environment.
The depth of this collection of songs lies in its fullness, the richness and breadth of its sonic textures and songwriting eloquence. Tom’s voice and guitar, formerly the driving instrumentation of his songs, are now parts of multifarious arrangements featuring drums, guitars and bass, performed by, among other guest musicians, Mice Parade’s Adam Pierce and Small Sails’ Ethan Rose. The songs themselves are refined, embellished, expanded and orchestrated by a confident harmonic structure that very naturally extends itself from the smaller scale of Tom’s past works without ever confining the pure spirit of North American blues that finances the immeasurable emotional impact of his songs. Appropriately, Tom sings, in ‘Favourite Colour Blue’, “My favourite colour is the colour blue, I put a little of that in everything I do”.
‘Posthumous Success’ also marks development in recording styles for Tom: 2006’s ‘Empty Houses Are Lonely’ was collected and compiled from previous releases, while 2007’s ‘Cavalier’ – Brosseau’s acclaimed 2nd FatCat release - was produced by John Parish (PJ Harvey, Eels, Tracy Chapman) and recorded in one week in one studio, Toybox Studio in Bristol.
Adam Pierce produced ‘Been True’ in upstate NY, alongside Ethan Rose’s work on ‘Favourite Colour Blue’ in Portland, Oregon. Two producers, two sets of guest musicians, recorded on separate US coasts, the effect is a collection of different styles, different instrumentation, different intricacies in different places, but always held together by Tom’s captivating, vibrato-soaked voice, his ability to let single notes gently resonate with a near-unearthly emotional grasp and his evident, laudable reluctance to bow to fleeting trends. ‘Been True’ is a beautiful demonstration of this: melodies spring gently from a rolling, snare-led drum part of Adam Pierce’s percussive ingenuity with the charm and tact of great songwriters past and the flair and finesse of great songwriters present.
‘Favourite Colour Blue’ is, likewise, conceptual, modern, playful, sometimes fun, dark, revealing, sprawling, lovely, loose, clashing, but in an entirely different way - a very similar sentiment to that expressed by Autumn de Wilde’s sensitive, insightful cover image for ‘Posthumous Success’. Opening with a soft, space-filling keyboard and driven by a deceptively simple rhythm section, ‘Favourite Colour Blue’ (which features twice in different guises on ‘Posthumous Success’ – the opening and closing tracks (this is the latter)) evokes a lyrical, age-spanning journey, an affectionate embrace of “moving down South” and of the Twist. The sleepy, warm closing guitar solo captures the same sort of serene contentedness as a summer afternoon or new love. The structure is considered, measured, reflective and timeless.
Tom spent his youth in Grand Forks, North Dakota, and now resides in LA. His dense musical and personal histories, yielding the delicacy and tenderness of ‘Posthumous Success’, have helped him create an album of great beauty, stillness, intimacy and celebration, and an album that will undoubtedly contribute to 2009’s already-exciting musical canon.