I’ve posted a little about Tom McRae before, but I think it’s time for more with the release of his newest album, “Alphabet of Hurricanes”.

Tom has been a steadfast companion of mine for a long, long time – his self-titled 2001 release got me through a very painful time in my life, and since then, he’s always been there, like a faithful Labrador. With a great singing voice. Although if I had a Labrador with a great singing voice, I’d be rich by now. Anyway, I digress.

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But I’m not a Tom McRae fanboy. After the stunning self-titled release, and a wonderfully complex and overwhelming second album (“Just Like Blood”), Tom’s not managed to repeat the impact on me. Those two albums are back-to-back listens, with never a song skipped. However, his last 3 releases, and I include “Alphabet…” in this, have a small number of wonderful tracks, but an awful lot of mediocre songs. While this bodes well for Tom’s “Best of…”, it isn’t good…

A few weeks ago, I went to see Tom play in Dublin, keeping up my 100% attendance for all Tom McRae gigs in the city. As ever, Tom was his amazingly witty self – with a wonderful self-deprecating humour, his ability to have the crowd in stitches one moment, and nearly in tears the next, is phenomenal.

As an experiment (i.e. because I hadn’t gotten round to buying the album), I went to the gig without having hear a single new song. What I heard confirmed my fears – another album of gems and rocks. But despite this, I had one revelationary moment. I love music – completely and utterly – but sometimes, it goes beyond a passion, and hurts. Actually, physically, hurts. And as Tom played “American Spirit”, I stopped moving. Stopped breathing. My chest hurt – hurt more than it had in a long time. And for five and a half minutes, I loved every agonising second.

Alongside “American Spirit”, I also give you my second standout track, “Summer of John Wayne”. What can I say – like everything Tom has ever written and released, they’re about sadness and loss and love and broken hearts and getting older and regrets, all sung in the best voice in the music business today, bar none. And he’s much better live than on CD. Yes, I know – scary.

Stood here
At the edge of the world, dear
Three wishes for you
As the tide turns

Salt water
Meets with the skies, dear
Meets with your eyes my dear
As the day dies

I’ve seen this trick before
Watch the waves write your name
On the shore

And hold your breath
There’s stills time left
Come on hold your breath
Swim with me further from the shore
Swim with me ‘til I can swim no more

She strikes up American Spirit
And a conversation about nothing
Says I’ve burned all colour and flame from
This hard ambition that once held me
But I feel love’s season shift
This heat has lost it’s grip on us

And hold your breath
There’s stills time left
Come on hold your breath
Swim with me further from the shore
Swim with me ‘til I can swim no more

And I know what you won’t say
For all this stolen time
Someone pays

Hold your breath
There’s stills time left
Come on hold your breath
Swim with me further from the shore
Swim with me ‘til I can swim no more

A summer of John Wayne
Getting older
Reel after reel
And playing old soldiers
With old wounds
You know how that feels

And a summer of searching
The underworld
An arrow in my heel
And the winding down of days
And the speeding of time won’t change

But I know you say nothing good lasts forever
Some things burn bright
But burn themselves out to embers

And these weather conversations
And small talk
Steal my hours away
And I gave away my best to strangers
Day after day
And the winding down of days
And the speeding of time won’t change

But I know you say
Nothing good lasts forever
Some things burn bright
But burn themselves out to embers

Your love is a cold, cold place my dear
The seasons change those ghosts appear
And every sound is an echo of yesterday.
And suddenly I fall through the cracks in time
And I’m standing here with your hand in mine
And I turn around to see you there’s no one there

But I know you say
Nothing good lasts forever
You will forget
But I will always remember, the time

Tom – thanks for the companionship and the pain. Now, stop faffing about and get a good full album out again.

Tom McRae – American Spirit

Tom McRae – Summer of John Wayne

www: Tom’s official website and MySpace.

According to Wikipedia, Peter Bradley Adams is

a folk-pop Americana singer-songwriter from Birmingham, Alabama.

How wonderfully nondescript and forgettable. And that’s how I approached PBA’s music. Having seen an ad on Facebook advertising his music, since I had said I liked William Fitzsimmons, I clicked through, listened, and realised I had heard it before – in two ways. Firstly, I had already gotten some music by PBA. And secondly, I had heard this type of song a hundred times before over the last few years.

And then, damn it, things got weird.

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I listened to all three PBA albums back to back one day (2006’s “Gather Up”, 2008’s “Leavetaking” and 2009’s “Traces”).

And then a second time.

And a third.

I put them on my MP3 player.

I started to recommend his songs to friends.

And now I realise he’s one of my finds of the last two or three years.

So, from Leavetaking (the strongest of the three albums by a long way), I give you “Los Angeles” and “Always”, and from Traces, “Walk Away”.

Always – a piano motif, PBA’s wonderfully affecting voice, a second female vocalist on the chorus, and a song of utter, utter desperation.

You can break her down
With your highs and lows
But she’s familiar with the sound
The sound you make, every time you go

Always
Always she waits for you
Always
Always she waits for you

This holiday she’s alone
She leaves the lights on the tree
And though the New Year has come
Every night, they’ll stay on for you to see

Always
Always she waits for you
Always
Always she waits for you
Always

Always
Always she waits for you
Always
Always she waits for you
Always

You’ve been away too long
But she will choose to believe
And her heart is so strong
It’s strong enough, if only it could see

Always
Always she waits for you
Always
Always she waits for you
Always

Always
Always she waits for you
Always
Always she waits for you
Always

Every day she waits
And instead you walk away

Los Angeles – a repetitive guitar and piano backing, with a slow build to something overwhelmingly beautiful.

Oh Los Angeles we leave you now
At the setting of your skies
As we leave the comfort of your ground
With your angels we will fly

Well you carried us in broken dreams
Like a mother does her sons
We were scattered ‘cross your dirty streets
We were dying one by one

And you held us in your city lights
When our eyes had lost the stars
And we made our peace with lonely nights
And you healed our broken hearts

Well they say the Big One’s gonna come
And you will fall into the sea
We will know that then your work is done
And your angels will go free

And Walk Away – an upbeat plucked guitar line with another female vocalist chorus, some wonderful violin support, and one of the simplest and saddest songs I’ve come across in some time.

I don’t have much but these dreams that lead to nowhere
You don’t say much but I can see your disappointment

You don’t know what I’m saying, don’t know how long I’ve waited

I’m standing, heart breaking
And you just walk away

I know you’ve tried to understand the life I’m living
But how can you give something you were never given?

You don’t know what I’m saying, don’t know how long I’ve waited

I’m standing, heart breaking
And you just walk away

Those plans you made always came with their conditions
I cannot change that my heart was never in them

You don’t know what I’m saying, don’t know how long I’ve waited

I’m standing, heart breaking
And you just walk away
I’m standing, heart breaking
And you just walk away
Away
Away

Peter Bradley Adams. Now living in my house (and MP3 player). Can we keep him?

Peter Bradley Adams – Always

Peter Bradley Adams – Los Angeles

Peter Bradley Adams – Walk Away

www: Peter Bradley Adams’ official website and MySpace.