We have so many words in the English language…sometimes a few to describe one thing but there are still nonetheless times when the purity of sound takes over for words and when any adjectives you can think of can’t measure up to what’s inside. Such is the case for me when I sit down to write about Tom Brosseau, whose sweeping tenorous voice made me stop taking photos in awe and wonder even though physically he’s a beautiful example of a human. And I wasn’t alone…the crowded room which nearly has a few talking in back was so hushed I swear you could hear a girl back by the bar smooth out her hair.
There are things delicate in nature like twigs you don’t mean to step on cracking like bones or the soft cries of someone precariously gentle. I thought maybe his voice was like a swan’s neck and as it climbed to heights with the guitar to it companion part of the time (some of the time with harmonica and still other times on its own) I felt like I was watching a subtle sort of danger. Though he is clearly influenced by Tom Waits by the fact that he covered him in his set, his sound is more akin to Jeff Buckley at times (in terms of vocals) and a subtle hint of Townes Van Zandt.
Tom stood in one place. He seemed so fair with his blonde hair it might almost recall traits of albinism. And though he seems breakable, if you listen closely you will hear insights only learned by experience and far too devastating for the casual listener to wander in on. His newest album Empty Houses are Lonely is filled with these (as well as a Leonard Cohen reference) as well as lyrics that are nothing if they aren’t careful. Just take “How to Grow a Woman From the Ground” for example…Tom sings: “the night was a chalk board with a finger nail moon and the fish ain’t dead yet. They will be pretty soon. Oh its the same kind of feeling in an old folks home: even though you love them you can’t wait for them to go.
It wrecks you to listen but you can’t tear yourself away.