For the wistful and laid-back release of his third album ‘All Maps Welcome’ a few years hence, Tom McRae wooed Tori Amos fans with his string led roaming and completed a sell-out tour of 850ish capacity venues. To be able to do that after three albums is a triumph for many, but still, some critics consider Mr McRae to be an underachiever. This fourth album continues the searching momentum and a bit more vocal animation is instilled through the soaring ‘Bright Lights’. Early on, the signs are there that the undisputable potential could finally be realised. The support act of a few years ago, could soon be headlining the same venues as the aforementioned, mysterious Bude resident.
That low-key Steve Earle feel is stroked along by whispering female backing to slow the tempo down for ‘Got A Suitcase, Got Regrets’A hue of blues that has been visible through the three previous full lengths, remerges to produce some earthy grit. This continues into the slow funk build up of ‘Keep Your Picture Clear’, before it turns into a shuddering pop release. The latter offering captures a rugged Johnny Bramwell (I Am Kloot) touch, at times, to bear out life. McRae’s soothing voice and cushioning accompaniments often contrasts with the deep, musing and sometimes beleaguered lyrics, as ‘Lord, How Long?’ aptly demonstrates;
“Silent, broken, bruised and cloaked in this desert night, I wait for you.
My eyes wide open, I face this moment and picture you by my side.
Funny how the things in this world quickly fall away.”
There is a lesson here that many modern indie bands should pay attention to. Cutting and self deprecatory lyrics can still be potent, even more so, when the delivery cloaks the fallible feelings, as it makes them more striking and even more believable. Tom McRae, once again reminds us of the spice of variety and the depth of his poetry.