Album Review: Tom Brosseau – Grass Punks

There are certain records that seem like they are nurtured, almost organically, like a gardener in his allotment allows things to grow. North Dakota songman Tom Brosseau’s new record, his first in five years, but his seventh overall, certainly has that feeling about it.

That was perhaps expected in his music to a certain extent. The brilliant guitarist says in interview he often finds patterns he likes on the fretboard and then lets his fingers do the work. But there’s also a certain wiseness about his lyrics, managing to make observations and tell stories, without straying into being sentimental or getting bogged down with pseudo clever metaphors.

He’s obviously taken much from his role in John Reilly and friends, a band who are heavily steeped in the American Folk Music revival scene. But it seems that what he has learnt most is to get a producer onside like Sean Watkins, who can capture his beautiful little folk vignettes and his soft vocal so clearly and faithfully.

Lyrically, Brosseau flits between everyday things – in the single Cradle Your Device, he bemoans people withdrawing into the virtual and away from the real life ‘You hardly acknowledge my existance, when you cradle your device’ he sings. Elsewhere there’s love, with the terrific opener We were meant to be together, and Tami, a story of young love, a first kiss. There’s also celebration of his craft, with the closer I Love to Play Guitar

There’s other delightful moments though, with Green Shampoo this lovely little interlude, and the thicker scored Today is a Bright New Day showing he can handle a bigger sound, and raise it with melody and smart songwriting.

I’m reminded of Ryan Adams, not in sound, but just in the seemingly effortless songwriting that seems to have gone on. Musically, it veers between at one end a stripped back Beirut, to, at the other John Fahey territory.

Really, it’s that good.

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