Tom Clark / Tom Clark & The High Action Boys

Cross-Eyed and Bow-Legged

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The Midwestern born Tom Clark had been playing regularly since hitting New York City in 1986, yet this 2002 release marks his debut album under his own name. With a peppy, preppy boyish voice similar to Buddy Holly and fourteen twangy, strummy slices of roots pop, Clark and his band sound like they're straight off the farm, rather than NYC pros who have been pounding the pavement for years. The group exudes a breezy, chiming sound that nicely coalesces around Clark's chipper vocals. A slight C&W/rockabilly sensibility infuses even the darkest tracks with a jumpy, grinning vibe that's difficult to dislike. Clark's style reverberates with echoes of the Lovin' Spoonful, The Byrds, The Searchers and even a Tom Petty-infused impish charm. The songs initially sound a little thin and similar to each other but after a few spins the melodies and clever lyrics sink in. Production by Patti Smith Group guitarist Lenny Kaye provides a roomy mix, yet restrains nearly all the tracks with only one breaking the four-minute mark. Certainly Marshall Crenshaw and Matthew Sweet are points of reference but these songs are more jittery and have guitar hooks that float rather than sting. Lou Reed sideman Robert Quine guests on just one tune, but his solo adds a sinewy tension to this typically jangly fare. Too bad he didn't participate in the rest of the disc. Regardless, Clark has released a refreshingly tuneful album that perfectly encapsulates his impressive singer/songwriter talents.

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