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Who Was That Man – Tokyo Rosenthal (Rock and Socks Records)
There is a thrill in the layers. The opening track swoons in, all epic western romantic, bandit style horns pretty and widescreen, the title evoking old fashioned imagery of musical daring, the mysterious crusader, and then as we listen closer, this is not a song about that at all, rather someone lost, searching, half deliberately distant half pleading for the comfort of connection.
That is what is so enticing about this record, what lies just beneath the picturesque is quietly questioning, emotionally reflective.
‘Saving Or Suffocation‘ a song of quiet personal protest, has a tangible sense of despair that plays against the sweet sad fiddle arrangements, and yet still maintains its beauty as a seductive country pop song. The kind of song that SHOULD be nominated for a Grammy already!
As with all of Rosenthal’s albums, the production (by the singer and the DB’s Chris Stamey) is just right, never over dramatic, never sickly syrup, polished just enough for daytime radio but rough and honest enough for a midnight caress.
When, in ‘Black and Blue’ Rosenthal adopts a larger canvas of criticism (the oil spills) his art and bite is worthy of a Dylan, yet somehow calmer less strident, a voice of reason, troubled yet somehow hopeful.
When listening to a song like, ‘The Librarian’ one can hear the sounds that those left of centre heroes Wilco and Calexico currently create, with a voice that is completely his own. He is so comfortable within these tunes, that even if I heard these in a busy noisy Mall I would know it was a Tokyo song.
The thrill is, that he plays it traditional too, these are Grand Ol Opry concoctions, he never loses sight of what is essential, there are no aimless ramble jams here, all is in service of the perfectly constructed composition.
He just keeps getting better.
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