Tom Brosseau

Grand Forks

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Nebraska-born singer/songwriter Tom Brosseau takes a tentative step into full-band folk-rock after several albums focusing almost entirely on solo voice and guitar tunes. Not that this is ornately arranged chamber folk along the lines of Phil Ochs' Tape from California or anything. Some tasteful drums, a little bass, some pedal steel, and on the Tom Waits-like "Down on Skidrow," a little oompah-band accordion -- indeed, Grand Forks is only barely more musically elaborate than Brosseau's previous albums. This is not a bad thing, since it keeps the listener's focus on Brosseau's distinctive voice -- one of the most appealing in contemporary singer/songwriterdom -- with a hint of a Neil Young-styled quaver, but far more trained and polished; Brosseau is one of the few current alt folk singer/songwriters who doesn't affect a faux-bluesy roughness in his voice. This is all the better to appreciate his consistently solid songwriting, which here ranges from the old-time folk reportage of "97 Flood," about a killer flood that devastated much of the Grand Forks area, to a more abstract, poetic riff on the same subject, "Here Come the Water Now."

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