Tom Brosseau - Grass Punks
- Malcolm Jack
- 5 December 2013
Ruggedly durable alt.folk blessed with moments of everyday poetry
Recorded in a house near Hollywood’s Sunset Boulevard – or rather ‘put to tape’, as Tom Brosseau phrases it, anachronisms being something of a forte – this is the first solo album in five years and seventh album to date from the North Dakotan storyteller/songwriter. Typically Grass Punks has the vague aura of something unearthed from a John Lomax field recording, with its harkening to Depression-era American folksong and the single-microphone austerity of its capturing. Brosseau’s distinctly a man stumblingly out of step with his own time and place. ‘Something’s come between us, and no it ain’t what you think,’ he begins ‘Cradle Your Device’, which documents leaving a lover he’s tired of seeing neglect him for … her mobile phone. ‘I only wish you’d pay as much attention to me when we’re in bed,’ he sighs.
Other pursuits of late have included touring as part of actor/musician John C Reilly’s bluegrass band, with whom he also recorded under the production auspices of that celebrated contemporary gatekeeper of vintage Americana Jack White. Future music Brosseau’s plainly ain’t – set mainly to acoustic guitar, these are songs so skinny you can see the bones, yet ruggedly durable and blessed with some properly lovely moments of everyday poetry.
‘Stuck On The Roof Again’ seems mired in tired metaphor between allusions to an ‘icy framed cage’ and ‘taking a leap of faith’, until you realise it’s literally a lament about getting stuck on the roof of his house while clearing snow. A dextrously janglin’ electric guitar decorates ‘Today Is A Bright New Day’, which crests upliftingly on its titular chorus until the line ‘Ain’t that what you’re supposed to say, if you want to make it through?’ sharply transforms a song of triumphant optimism into one of quiet disillusion. ‘Gregory Page of San Diego’ rings with sharply strummed and plucked mandolin, and like several standout songs on Grass Punks finds much in common with Seven Swans-period Sufjan Stevens in its spare and plaintive prettiness.