Tom Brosseau | Grand Forks (Loveless)

cd_brousseauWhat the tender-voiced folksmith does best throughout Grand Forks is create an eerily pleasant, old-timey tone, blending the straight-forward dialogue of Hank Williams, Sr. with a modernized, feminized lilt in the vein of Jeff Buckley.

 

 

 

 

In 1997, there was an historic flood in North Dakota; a disaster that displaced 10% of the state's population from their homes. The town of Grand Forks was all but destroyed by the flood, and has spent the last ten years reinventing itself, relying on the strength and endurance of the community to overcome tremendous obstacles. Tom Brosseau, a native of Grand Forks and an accomplished singer/songwriter, has brought forth his album Grand Forks as an homage to the struggles, persistence, hope, and sorrow of those involved.

The liner notes of Grand Forks contain three statements. There is one from Brosseau himself, and one each from the former Mayor of Grand Forks and the former Governor of North Dakota, each outlining their experiences with the great flood. Following these statements is the line, "It was this experience that inspired Tom Brosseau to start putting his thoughts to music." This sentence is apropos because Brosseau's music does indeed sound as if the story came first, and he was simply looking for a more affecting medium with which to preserve the emotion of such an event.

Still, this is not Brosseau's first album, and while the playing may sound simplistic in nature, it is decidedly precise in its purpose. What the tender-voiced folksmith does best throughout Grand Forks is create an eerily pleasant, old-timey tone, blending the straight-forward dialogue of Hank Williams, Sr. with a modernized, feminized lilt in the vein of Jeff Buckley. Smoothly plucking his acoustic guitar in tempos reminiscent of '50s country, Brosseau employs the aid of Doug Meyer's lap and pedal steel, as well as the hush of Martin Greaves' organ and Rob Thorsen's bowed, upright bass to hearken back to a bygone era; perhaps one of better fortune.

Brosseau never seems to lament the misfortune of the Red River flood, instead taking the position of a wiser man. It's as if he's set up on the porch after the flood has passed and the sun has broken through, telling the story to those too young to remember, yet imploring their aid in rebuilding a town that he remembers as being so great. The lyrical content itself is the most engaging aspect of the album. On "Plaid Lined Jacket," Brosseau takes a lighthearted approach to homelessness, offering a reminder of better days and sunny attitudes, or perhaps of simple ways to bring hope to an unexpected catastrophe. Other highlights include the perspective-altering "Blue Part of the Windshield," which is aided by the longing violin of Hilary Hahn, and the album closer "97 Flood," in which Brosseau tells the story of the flood with an immense honesty and care.

The clean brevity and poignancy of Grand Forks reveals a truly loving tribute, one that can only come from the heart of someone who was personally touched by such an event. Yet, Brosseau's efforts are of the sort that should pull any listener in. Coupled with an uncooked production, the singer's clean, youthful voice will shave off the glare and anticipated static from the most unwilling ears. Brosseau shows us that both the music and events of times lost will always live on in the wake of sincerity. B+ | Dave Jasmon

RIYL: Sufjan Stevens, Band of Horses, '50s folk and country

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