Let's face it; singer-songwriters don't have it easy. As if composing an interesting chord progression isn't tough enough, the artist must also own a particularly engaging voice. On "When I Cross the River", Aussie chanter Tom Bolton attempts to get pass marks from me. At least, I think that was his intention.
The title track's desolate opening chords immediately throw the listener into a state of discomfort. Tom's distressed voice, like a twisted lullaby, serves to accentuate the mystery of the lyrics. There's no questioning of the precision of the music, but what ultimately sway the listener is the emotive howl emanating from Bolton's larynx. "Whose Army" is a marked shift in tempo, but Bolton's soft-as-snow vocals rub remarkably well against the stabbing guitar. There are no false sentiments here. This is an album of would be poetry with the music setting the scene.
The first signs of Bolton not being a moping mammy's boy come on "Hey You, Yeah You", a trivial school time folker that benefits from some pleasant choral work. However, normal service is resumed on "Longer Than My Life", a song that, with its deadbeat plod, will render you comatose. A good album is sure to have the odd mournful dirge, but this goes too far. Bolton's lyrical prowess comes truly alive again on "Hold the Sun". This track again showcases the inner folk singer in Bolton and the almost tribal sounds accompanying the guitar create a terrific platform for Bolton's leaves-in-the-wind vocals.
It isn't fair to persecute Bolton for the depressive swing of this album - Morrissey has made a career out of wallowing in misery after all - but Bolton possesses great talent, and it would be a shame to see a potential James Taylor become a funereal Morrissey. An album demonstrating great potential! Available from CD Baby.