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Tom Bolton - When I Cross the River

When I Cross the River

Tom Bolton

Available from CD Baby.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker
(progdawg@hotmail.com).

All the way from Australia, Tom Bolton reminds us what's meant when referring to the golden age of folk, the day when gentle giants walked the Earth, when heart and brain mattered, when sensitivity to the dilemma of being human was a central concern...and when refined musicality was the mark of a consummate craftsman / woman. Starting with a Glass-ian motif before seguing into an October Project-ish main theme, the title cut lays down a metaphorical prophecy of revolution, enlightenment, and jaggedly blissful aftermath in a voice calmly invoking a surety of benign destiny despite turmoil. Remember when that used to be a mainstay in the genre?

In River, the full flavor of the 60s and 70s walks confidently through the front door, then unfurls a map of lessons and recollections both inspiring and depressing, scamping little in the way of shaded memories and aching hopes. Bolton's literary skills can be rather impressive, coaxing the listener to share suggestive dilemmas:
Shadowless they came
Driven out from underneath the twilight of the south
Took my breath away
Half the world said that I had gone too far
I just happened to be there
You would've done the same

…as Silver well shows, a laconic reverie on the temptations, waysides, and disappointments that may not be avoided in a truthfully lived life. Bolton's guitar work is sensual: mostly broad wistful chords, caressing strums, and languorous fingerpicking beneath a fetchingly moded voice that isn't really quite in anyone else's purview. Various musicians color up the cuts without overthrowing the composer's mainwork. The first full-throated track, Whose Army, features tasty-as-hell electric guitar from Shane Dilorio and a scatted backing vox quartet (among whom, Min Flipo ranges the disc indispensibly) while Hey You, Yeah You features a number of offbeat time signatures constantly shifting. Most of the cuts are simple and straightforward but oh-so-compelling, beautifully arranged like Cat Stevens or prime mellow Beatles cuts, haunting in effect, persistent in their refusal to leave the ear, resonating long after the disc winds to a close.

My favorites? Longer Than My Life, a Nick Drake-ish lament, and Little Star, a Dave Cousins-esque track, but in whole, the closest I've heard to Cross the River is the Wilkins CD reviewed elsewhere in this forum. If you don't wait too long, you can grab the edition with a bonus disc offering a Loudon Wainwright-ish "Biscuits" in two versions, both sung Donovanly.

Track List:

  • When I Cross the River
  • Three Hearts
  • Silver
  • Whose Army
  • Hey You, Yeah You
  • All I Can Do
  • Longer Than My Life
  • Where You Wanna Go
  • Little Star
  • Hold the Sun
  • Sweet Days

BONUS DISC

  • Biscuits (fancy)
  • Biscuits (plain)
All cuts written by Tom Bolton
except Hey You, Yeah You (Tom Bolton / Min Flipo).

Edited by: David N. Pyles
(dnpyles@acousticmusic.com)

Copyright 2008, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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