I wrote these songs in 2008 and recorded them live in my basement using 2 mics and my guitar. I’ve never been able to stay away from them for long, because I’ve never been able to stay away from the Civil War for long. Anybody who has seen my library can attest to that.
A few months back I gave copies (I only had 4th or 5th generation mp3s) to Tom Borthwick at Sound Investments and asked if he could work with them. And did he ever. Every note….every breath….every brush of every string….is now right where it should be. When you need songs mastered, you take them to Tom and you leave him be. There is nobody better. So if you don’t like the songs, it’s not because they don’t sound good. When Tom touches songs, they all sound good. If they suck, it’s on me. The guy who wrote them.
Not many songwriters sit down and write 10 songs, each named for a major battle of our Civil War. But I like to think I’m not like most songwriters. I figure if they interest me, they may interest some of you.
Anyway, give a listen won’t you? I’d love to hear from you.
Download the project for free here
It’s no secret Tom Flannery & I have known each other for a few years. I was lucky to be a part of his Anthracite Shuffle project back in 2000, and it’s safe to say we’ve admired & enjoyed each others work since that time. Although that was a predominately acoustic oriented album (albeit it band-based) I usually refer to Tom and his musical spirit as ‘best when played loud’ kinda guy, and I understand what sense that makes even better after learning to what degree a Who fan he is. We’ve taken to sporadic late-night chats in recent times and have talked a good deal about Rock music and its art. We’re also both Clash fans. Last time I saw him in person he slipped me his ‘Teen Angst & the Green Flannel’ album done with his band The Shillelaghs which only reinforced all of this, and sank right in as I’m in the middle of launching an electric-jam/blues based project myself right now. Plus, even though I make most of my living behind an acoustic guitar I’ve always had that louder side to my nature, and I just love that album; it’s still in my car’s CD player.
He recently asked me to listen to this new album Love & Streets as he was finishing up, of which I did. As much as I like loud, I like quiet albums – anything with a lone guitar mixed hauntingly and up front, with a plaintive but expressive vocal speaking in a language I understand. It’s not an easy thing to pull off, especially well, it’s a vision out in front of you and you alone must fill in the colors. Like some of my favorite quiet singular singer-songwriter albums (Richard Shindell, some early Bromberg & James Taylor, Bill Morrissey’s original first album & some of Bruce Cockburn’s & Dylan’s early work come immediately to mind) Tom’s new album was recorded with just a set of mics – quiet and introspective as the house at night after everyone’s gone to bed. The daydreams and hushed yearnings that roll around inside any man left to his own self long after his love is tucked away and safe and his mind can wander up, towards a better self.
It’s so nice to hear Tom go to the quiet place, introspective ramblings that feel like you’re quietly listening in on the more mature family man who feels like he hasn’t learned a thing. He talks to his wife and considers worry, regret, hope & growing old in general while trying to navigate the right path. As an artist you take your life experience and find art, and Mr. Flannery finds what many would find themselves quietly contemplating late at night and follows it down his own melodic path. His eye for detail just adds layers to the collection of songs. Even the few songs with a more historical bent, something wholly explored on The Anthracite Shuffle, were treated more up close & personal. The whole group of songs leaves me with a feeling of knowing the perspective of this guy within a generation or era – a more modern one peppered with visions of the way it was while growing up, and maybe somewhere in between. The songs arrangements are collections themselves, from old Irish & Appalachian folk styles to more modern feels. Of course there’s that irony in his lyrics.
‘Road Weary’ is where it got personal, something only a few writers do for me. It’s the longing in the voice that delivers that song, and much of that song’s lyrics touch me directly. And in the end Tom can successfully deliver a lot of emotion with just the timbre of his expressive voice, his mostly finger-on-string style of acoustic guitar playing and of course, a beautiful crop of great songs. A fine collection of solo acoustic meditations on life.