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www.tokyorosenthal.com   

I’m frequently surprised by the genre categories that appear when I load a new disc into my computer’s library.  Tokyo Rosenthal’s new album comes up as country and western and I suppose I’d reckoned him to be more of a folk singer than anything. His subject matter covers a lot of ground, from the personal and observational to some barn-storming social commentary, but I can’t think of a song of his that sounds “pure country” – and certainly not on this, his fifth album, despite the presence of some great pedal steel playing from Allyn Love and some good ol’ country fiddle from John Teer.

       Rather, Tokyo’s a man who writes about the things that make him curious or that affect him deeply and then, together with producer Chris Stamey, pulls together a sound for each song that might embrace folk, rock, country or whatever seems to fit. In a sense, the musical style doesn’t matter too much because Toke’s voice is so distinctive, with its ever-present nasal catch, that his presence pretty much dominates the arrangement. So, from the sweet and tender Tex-Mex sounds of The Immigrant, to the curiously hybrid sound of Smoke and Mirrors (that sounds like a reggae rhythm to me, allied to Spanish guitar and a silky smooth sophisticated rock outro; somehow, it all works together well) Tokyo’s voice is the peg from which it all hangs.  I confess I blow hot and cold on his voice. Sometimes it seems the ideal instrument to deliver a particular song because he can express tender anguish particularly well. Sometimes, though, I feel I’d like to hear his songs sung in a contrasting voice that would bring out different qualities.

          He chucks in one cover version on this album, The Beatles’ Helter Skelter. I guess I’ve never liked this song, I’m afraid, and even John Teer’s appropriately febrile fiddle playing doesn’t rescue it for me here. Besides, Tokyo writes some really good songs himself. I don’t always get his drift, but when he hits the mark he can write a song that will stick with you. I like the elegy he has written here for an Irish fiddler he must have known, Killaloe. He paints a picture in words that captures the warmth and magic of Irish music making, and there’s a similar warm humanity to The Immigrant. The stand-out song, though, is probably What Did I Used To Be?, another look at the protracted economic misery visited on ordinary folks in the current times. He’s written about this before, and this new song has a bit of a driving rock kick alongside some epic, soaring pedal steel.  He’s expressing the continued confusion ordinary working Joes feel at a world seemingly re-modelled overnight, and that big tune acts as a soothing balm for all those caught up in their own stories.

            Toke’s been building a following on these shores in the last few years and he’ll be back in the late spring to present these new songs. He’s a fine, individual writer and well worth checking out if you haven’t already caught up with his work. 

 

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November 2017

1
JW Roy & The Royal Family
80 pts.
A Room Full Of Strangers
Royal Family Records
EM,BH,RST,LK
2
Chris Hillman
79 pts.
Bidin' My Time
Rounder
BP,FS,HD
3
Turnpike Troubadours
46 pts.
Long Away From Your Heart
Bossier City Records
HM,TK
4
Jolie Holland & Samantha Parton
36 pts.
Wildflower Blues
Cinquefoil Records
TJ
5
Eilen Jewell
34 pts.
Down Hearted Blues
Signature Sounds
 
6
Lucinda Williams
31 pts.
This Sweet Old World
Highway 20/Thirty Tigers
BR,MW
7
JD McPherson
29 pts.
Undivided Heart & Soul
New West
JS
8
Mark Martyre
26 pts.
Rivers
Independent
FC
 
Tom Russell
26 pts.
Folk Hotel
Frontera Records-Proper Records
SP
10
Anna Tivel
25 pts.
Small Believer
Fluff And Gravy Records
MG
 
Margo Price
25 pts.
All American Made
Third Man Records
JB
12
Fred Wickham
22 pts.
Mariosa Delta
Thirty Days Records
RK
 
Joe Henry
22 pts.
Thrum
Ear Music
HVB,PJ
 
Whitney Rose
22 pts.
Rule 62
Six Shooter/Thirty Tigers
 
15
Dick LeMasters
18 pts.
Incompatible Things
Longneck Road Music
HDB,JJ
 
Jim White
18 pts.
Waffles, Triangles & Jesus
Loose Music
LM,SZ
 
Peter Gallway
18 pts.
Feels Like Religion
Gallway Bay Music
CVL,DHO
18
Thomm Jutz
17 pts.
Crazy If You Let It
Mountain Fever Records
 
19
Kris Delmhorst
16 pts.
The Wild
Blue Blade Records
 
20
Daniel Crabtree
15 pts.
In The Shadow Of His Wings
Independent
 
 
Jeremy Pinnell
15 pts.
Ties Of Blood And Affection
Sofaburn Records
 
 
Julien Baker
15 pts.
Turn Out The Lights
Matador
EZ
23
Amber Cross
14 pts.
Savage on the Downhill
Independent
 
 
Chris Blevins
14 pts.
Better than Alone
Horton Records
 
 
David Rawlings
14 pts.
Poor David's Almanack
Acony Records
 
 
Grainne Duffy
14 pts.
Where I Belong
Independent
GC,RW
 
Jeff Crosby
14 pts.
Postcards From Magdalena
At The Helm Records

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