The Best Music Hurts.

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.