Personnel: Tom Brosseau (acoustic guitar); Ben Reynolds (electric guitar); John Parish (organ); Joe Carvell (double bass); David Butler (drums).
Recording information: The Cube; Toybox Studios, Bristol, England.
Photographer: Carey Braswell.
What has been most remarkable about singer/songwriter Tom Brosseau is not, amazingly enough, his songs. Since the beginning of the century they have been almost uniformly fine in craft, but it is the grain of his voice when delivering them -- on recordings and on stages -- that casts a pervasive spell. Almost since the beginning, on 2002's North Dakota (named for his home state), Brosseau has been spinning tales with a timeless brand of popular song that descends equally from gospel, early country and bluegrass, folk music, and the Great American Songbook. Perfect Abandon is his ninth album. It was produced by John Parish and engineered by Ali Chant in an old community theater in Bristol, England. The collective approach was to record a pretty spare band -- acoustic and electric guitars, two-piece drum kit, and double bass -- around a single microphone. The feel of early Sun Records sessions haunts the fringes of the sound a little -- especially since Parish initially thought to record there -- but it's in the electric guitars rather than anywhere else. Brosseau's songs are as enchanting as ever. The spoken word opener, "Hard Luck Boy," is a heartbreaking tale delivered in spoken word with musical accompaniment. Brosseau expects no sympathy and gives no quarter; without guile or artifice he simply tells the story accompanied by the band -- its content needs no embellishment to resonate. First single "Roll Along with Me" is a country song delivered with Johnny Cash's early cut-time two-step, but his voice floats and hovers, seeing the road wide open as he invites the listener along for the immediacy of the experience. "Take Fountain" has a straight country rockabilly backdrop; its fluid observations are fleet yet fluid, in the moment, full of loneliness and wonder. "Landlord Jackie," a tale of fantasy, is half spoken, half sung; it sounds made up in the moment, a straight yet dark recollection of a woman desired by a guy so inside his own head he couldn't get out if he wanted to. "Goodbye Empire Builder" has its own instrumental intro, and is a slow, 4/4 boogie with a melody straight out of the 1940s, but Brosseau lets the lyric move through his throat before running out of his mouth like water, just behind the beat. "Island in the Prairie Sea," an unaccompanied acoustic number, drips with ache and reverie. Throughout Perfect Abandon's nine vocal songs, Brosseau's unhurried delivery transports the listener from her own world into his seamlessly. Everything stops, gets very small, and opens wide into a panorama of moments that link to one another and toward the horizon and beyond. ~ Thom Jurek