Brosseau encourages open emotion in his listeners, as well as fearful distress.
Martin Longley 2008-01-04
Tom Brosseau grew up in Grand Forks, North Dakota, which we must all assume is a small town indeed. Now, this singer and guitarist dwells in Los Angeles, which is surely about the single most inappropriate haunt for this quaint, quiet old soul, trapped in a young man's body. The first time I saw Brosseau, he held a captivated gathering in silence, standing on a table whilst he transported everyone back to the days of those travelling railroad troubadours of the 1920s. There is no trace of the modern age in Tom's deportment. The second time I witnessed his performance was in the back of a crowded record shop, opening for The Fiery Furnaces. At first there was a babble of inattention, but then the crowd became oddly hushed, once again transfixed by this strange being's introverted intensity.
Fat Cat released a summation of Brosseau's brief but prolific career so far, with 2006's Empty Houses Are Lonely serving as an introduction in the UK. On this second album for the label, Brosseau is pure and open, in the old-fashioned way, but in a similarly old timey manner, he might just have made an arrangement with Beelzebub. There's a stain of threat running through many of these songs, delivered with Brosseau's hermaphrodite quaver. "Brass Ring Blues" has a sinister born-again emanation, a running together of romantic innocence and carnal threat. He's either going to kill himself, or maybe somebody else. "Committed To Memory" has a slightly distorted vocal, twinned slide guitars and muted handclaps. Later, there are echo-piano trails, slight percussive rattles and a climactic sub-bassline. It's producer John Parish who's responsible for these subtle trimmings: the P.J. Harvey sideman playing host to these Bristol sessions. So Stateside, but we're actually in the West Country!
No artist possesses the same peculiar qualities as Brosseau. He encourages open emotion in his listeners, as well as fearful distress. He courts deep melancholia, but his songs are queerly uplifting. The power of his performing persona is so strong that he can pervade the whole room with his subjective existence, making time-warped acolytes out of his audience. These were the good/bad old days...