What do I, a non American, know about Boston? It’s in Massachusetts, right? There are some very tall buildings next to some very short, pretty, older ones, yes? The trees are spectacularly colourful in autumn/fall, I’ve been told and wasn’t Bunker Hill near there?
Also back in the 70s our own Alex Harvey had a single called “Boston Tea Party.” Next add the words Legal, Red Sox, New England, and Globe and that’s about it, I’m afraid.
Two things I do know, however, is that I very much want to visit it. The other is that there is an amazing alternative folk scene developing there. It is the latter that I now turn to as I have just spent a colourful morning in the company of Tom Thumb by listening to his new album We Never Die.
In 2008 Boston’s Andy Arch (alias Tom Thumb) released an album called The Taxidermist. It created something of a stir, and helped bring the city’s fascinating, vibrant, modern folk movement to the fore. It goes deeper than that, of course, and he gives his beautifully crafted sound a gentle easy twist by stamping his own style on it.
The result is as refreshing as a peach on a dry day, and as delicate as the aforementioned leaves in the fall. It sits somewhere between a nostalgia set within the roots of Americana folk, and yet is successfully given a smooth, flowing modern, degree of thirst quenching originality.
There is just the vaguest touch of Roy Harper in his vocals of We Never Die’s opening tracks, the folk flavoured “Olivia”, the fragile innocence of “Wolf’s Breath”, and the joyous undercurrent of “Cabin Building.” That’s what I heard anyway, but I suspect that a room full of suitably chilled people will individually pick out their own hooks on which to hang Mr. Thumb’s sound.
As if to confirm that, the album progresses with a smoothness that is an experience in itself, teasing in a whole range of ideas, and successfully bringing them home. My advice is to simply let it be and play it through, whilst mentally unwrapping each track. Or ease back in an indulgently comfy chair, and forget about the madness of days at work.
Remember, I am a geographic distance away but my guess is that if you are quick enough you can claim to have been the one in your social crowd to have ‘discovered’ Tom Thumb. If you leave it too late then Boston’s best kept secret may already be out there.
We Never Die delivers a collection of tenderly constructed, sometimes stripped down, acoustically driven, inventively layered tracks. It is an unlikely marriage of folk and easy understated electronica blended together to leave the listener spellbound.
The delicate “Waxwing” leads to “Better Days” a track whose lyrics underline in neon colours the level of song writing we are talking about here. “Land Of The Midnight Sun” is a track that paints an instant image in a Neil Young type of way whilst blending its folk vibe with a gentle electronic twist.
“Polished Improv” slowly releases a pure quality. A memorable “Advice”, for some reason, took an ageing me off into Grateful Dead circa American Beauty territory. “White Sands” blooms out slowly into a piano meets subtle electronica instrumental that eases us towards the album closer, the thought provoking “Acid Rain.”
There is nothing small about Tom Thumb or the movement that this album helps showcase. We Never Die is well worth the visit. Boston, I’m sure, will be too, if ever I get there.
Catch up with all of this and more by calling in on Tom Thumb's official website.Powered by Sidelines