February 1, 2007
Review by Daimian Holiday Scott
Tom Brosseau is from North Dakota; Grand Forks to be exact. I believe he has mentioned this trivia fact every time I have seen him live. The statement always peaks out slowly, in a description of a song here, in an anecdote of a parent there, but Grand Forks, North Dakota always makes an appearance, and I guess that may even be true in other ways. Now I am from the South and don't know a hill of beans about Grand Forks, but I imagine it is somewhat similar to the South: kind, sincere people, a country music undertone, an appreciation for the small moments. Where I would imagine the difference lies (and you can hear this in Tom Brosseau's songs) is in the general vastness of the land. In the small amounts of people and wide open vistas you would encounter on a cross-country road trip. Tom's music possesses this element: a slow, languid pace and just enough guitar to go with just enough voice. He even carries on vowels longer than most and emphasizes their simplistic nature. His reedy voice occasionally raises to the heights and pulls off a beautiful, tranquil falsetto. As I describe his style to people I generally reference old blues and country female singers - Bessie Smith, etc. Sometimes I even go so far as to name another old blues female singer who took the form of Jeff Buckley, and in Tom Brosseau's falsetto jumps you can hear this.
The show this past Thursday combined a little of all of his albums, "Tom Brosseau", "Empty Houses are Lonely", a few of his live albums and his new album, "Grand Forks". Amongst the highlights of his show is always "Young and Free", a beautiful ode to the remembrance that despite whatever troubles you may have, there is always a lightness floating just beneath. Fresh some being not only covered, but the title of Chris Thile's (of Nickel Creek) latest album, "How to Grow a Woman from the Ground" remains a personal favorite of mine and deserves a much greater audience. Finally, and but of course, a story of Grand Forks arrived, and this one will be hard to top. It seems during a recent trip back to his hometown Tom was presented with the key to the city from the Mayor, thus cementing his relationship. Speaking of Grand Forks, his most recent album, "Grand Forks", shares the stories surrounding the Great Red River Flood of 1997 that left most of Grand Forks and the surrounding area under water and includes brief stories by the Governor of North Dakota and the Mayor the CD booklet.
The opener was Mariee Sioux, a female folk singer from Nevada City. I had actually seen Marie one time before in my hometown of Gainesville, Florida as she was on a national tour with Bright Black Morning Light. She seems a fitting companion for them as well as for what the national press has dubbed our fine city of San Francisco's "freak-folk" scene. As I was searching for a description for her nature-inflected tales, the most fitting description felt as if Mariee was the Joan Baez of the freak-folk movement; possessing a gorgeously lilting voice while performing relatively straight-forward folk songs.