Nashville move prompts deep-voiced troubadour to move onwards and upwards.
Having been massively involved in the songwriting community of the Pacific NW states, the arrival of the Covid era prompted a relocation south to Nashville for Tommy Alexander. It must have been a wrench for the singer-songwriter, as he had forged many associations and friendships, not least by developing his own booking agency, Pilot Light Booking.
However, the move quickly bore fruit, initially gaining a booking agent role at the legendary Wasserman agency, and then teaming up with producer Andrija Tokic to record his own music. Tokic put together a skilled band of Nashville session players, and the result was Alexander’s fourth album, ‘Feelings’.
Alexander has been writing and producing music for many years, and there is an ease and quality to the writing here that reflects that. From a songwriting perspective, ‘Feelings’ is very much a continuation of work that he commenced on his previous releases, with ‘Waves’ (2020) being a stand out of that period. However, where it develops is in the sonic tightening and sharpness that the band and production values bring. There is a twang to the guitars throughout that lends a rich warmth, but the music is also honed to a fine edge, sharp and tight. It gives the record a very specific overall identity, which is only a good thing.
Opener ‘If I Only Knew’ comes in on a wave of twinkling, chiming chords. There is an elegiac feel to its stately rhythms, and it is a wonderful opener. With the opening words being “If I only knew how to love someone…I’d stop tearing myself apart”, the theme of seeking a purposeful way forward in our inner (and outer) lives is something which is returned to throughout the record.
‘Something Light’ pushes Alexander’s light baritone even further down into the territory of Colter Wall and Johnny Cash, with the ‘boom-chicka-boom’ guitar accentuating the similarity to the latter, while “all I ever wanted was…an appropriate fear of the night” forms a wry and catchy refrain. It’s a very cool song, modern and retro at the same time.
‘Dear Catalina’ shakes things up a little, with barroom piano and guitar that sounds like a New Orleans jazz band at times. It’s great fun, and is another marker of how skilfully this record has been put together, adding just enough variety but not straying too far from its own indelible sound.
The final tracks, ‘Blues’ and ‘Naked to the World’ dive deep lyrically, and the latter closes out the record in a nicely circular return to the twinkling sound of opener ‘If I Only Knew’.
This is a great sounding record, rich and warm and multi-layered, with Alexander’s distinctive voice tying it all together. It’s a great place to start listening to this nuanced and skilled songwriter and performer.
NB the record is available digitally now, but if you want a CD copy, you’ll have to wait until May 2023.