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Tom Brosseau - Grass Punks (Review)

Tom Brosseau, Grass Punks

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

NORTH Dakota troubadour Tom Brosseau returns with his first solo release in five years and his seventh studio album to date with Grass Punks. It was mostly worth the wait.

The album draws on themes of the emptiness of a false dream, loyalty, betrayal and perseverance and was recorded and produced by Sean Watkins (Nickel Creek) near the 101 FWY in Hollywood, California.

Its title was taken from a phrase belonging to a San Diego-based artist who would perform her soft, low voiced poetry over cafard melodies on the piano.

Brosseau says of the album: “Grass Punks at once brought to my mind an earthen smouldering stick, used to light a wick or ward off peskiness, but now it stands for something greater, a sort of heading for everything I believe in when it comes to my folk music and DIY recording.”

The songs themselves are rooted in classic folk/troubadour elements. Just occasionally, they reminded me a lot of Turin Brakes. But they’re sometimes confessional, sometimes probing, always intellectual.

Instrumentally, they’re usually backed with acoustic guitar as the weapon of choice. But just as Brosseau declares his love for playing guitar on one track, so this is realised with some great guitar work throughout.

Hence, We Were Meant To Be Together has a nice romanticism about it, coupled with some really appealing acoustic guitar licks and a great underlying melody, as does Cradle Your Device, which even has a more rock-folk vibe.

Running From Zombies is a really solid track, too, while Brosseau’s guitar prowess is really on show in the instrumental Green Shampoo, which even throws in some bluesier sounding riffs.

Gregory Page of San Diego is another favourite, combining great lyricism with some chiming guitar work.

Not every tracks registers as strongly. Moments such as Stuck On The Roof Again and Tami, while shot through with emotion, maybe have a downbeat tendency that makes them more difficult to warm to and more forgettable.

But in the main, this is a strong return from Brosseau that has a lot to recommend.

Download picks: We Were Meant To Be Together, Cradle Your Device, Green Shampoo, Gregory Page of San Diego

Track listing:

  1. Cradle Your Device
  2. Stuck on the Roof Again
  3. Tami
  4. Today Is a Bright New Day
  5. Love High John the Conqueror Root
  6. Running from Zombies
  7. Green Shampoo
  8. Gregory Page of San Diego
  9. I Love to Play Guitar
  10. We Were Meant to Be Together