Tom Wilson

Dog Years

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As much a collaboration with producer/guitarist and fellow member of Blackie & the Rodeo Kings Colin Linden as it is the singer/songwriter's second solo release, Tom Wilson's Dog Years is an impressive achievement. Conveniently, yet not entirely correctly, lumped into the Americana roots bin, Wilson's songs cover a variety of genres from folk-rock ("Tell It Like It Is," not the Aaron Neville tune), to country-tinged pop (the lovely vocal duet with Rosanne Cash on "Talk of the Town" is one of the album's most emotional moments) to the garage rocking of the pounding opener, "Super Sun Natural." His whiskey-burnished voice can be mistaken for Tom Petty especially on the Dylan-ish "Tell It Like It Is," a tune that could be an outtake from the Highway 61 Revisited sessions. Linden's swampy guitar lines dominate the music, pushing and pulling Wilson's already terrific tunes into the South from his Canadian home. Although upbeat songs dominate the album, Wilson's voice carries the soft, brooding, darkly admonishing "Rome's Barbershop" as it gradually adds layers of instruments. Echoes of a younger Jackson Browne, Tom Waits, and even Harry Nilsson (especially on the beautiful closing ballad, "Dreamland") also creep in, yet Wilson's songs bring a personal perspective unique to him. Bassists such as Motown "snake pit" man Bob Babbitt, E Street Band member Garry Tallent, and J.D. Foster (Dwight Yoakam) also appear, but pretty much stay in the background. Ultimately it's the combination of Wilson's slyly poetic lyrics ("I feel like Jesus on a good day, my stone just rolled away" begins "Keep on Grinning") and Linden's low-key production that captures every nuance of these songs, pushing this album from good to great. Wilson's world-weary approach to the strummy "I'm in Love with the System," a relatively dark but realistic look at his place in life and/or the music business that also boasts a catchy singalong hook, is symbolic of this album's strengths. It's a moody yet uncompromising success and shows both Tom Wilson's talent for writing moving songs and Colin Linden's knack for producing them to maximum effect.

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