Is it really nine years since the sure-footed tones of Stolen Conversations… first washed into my ears? Tempus does indeed fugit but what has changed? Well, in many ways not much. The same alt-country, punk, pop, soul and rock’n’roll influences swirl around this new musical melting pot, a lot of the same team are back on board and the honest reflections and personal narratives that mark Tommy’s work are still to the fore. If that is what you do so well, why change, right? Why not do what you do only …well, more so? Why am I asking you all these questions?
Anyway, if the last album was a confident and evolved step on from Far From Grace, that trajectory has taken an even sharper upward curve this time out. So, the musical landscape may look familiar but there seems to be something more open, personal, heartfelt and extremely honest going on here. That has never been that far from the surface on previous albums but songs like Save Me, Homecoming Mum, Simple Song and Can I Lay Down Next to You seem almost confessional, the author allowing us into to his private thoughts and emotional personal space, an experience that almost feels intrusive and intellectually voyeuristic. Shared secrets rather than public proclamations.
Honesty like this is rare in rock and roll, and this is most definitely a rock and roll record. Forget all the clever relabeling and the on-trend terms such as “roots” and “Americana,” after all no two people ever agree on what either of those mean. This is a guy with solid R’n’R credentials hooking up with others who have taken similar musical journeys but it is age, experience, and those years treading the boards and wrestling with the craft at hand which shapes the music most. Maturity has its benefits.When it wants to rock out, like the titular opening track or the Stones-esque Backburner, it makes no apologies but for me it is the more insular and intense songs that sit between by which we should judge just how far Tommy’s song writing has come.
Capturing the sound of your songs is hard enough, capturing the sound of your very soul takes a lot more skill.