Folkadelphia Session: Tom Brosseau (with Andru Bemis)

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Photo by Carey Braswell.
Photo by Carey Braswell.

Simplicity doesn’t mean a lack of creativity, honesty doesn’t preclude artfulness, being plainspoken doesn’t limit wit or cleverness. You can be all of these things in one and much more too. That’s the case for North Dakotan songwriter and (**huge bias here**) one of my favorite songwriters, Tom Brosseau. Over his recorded career, which comprises over ten solo albums – nearly one a year since 2002, except for a break between 2009’s Posthumous Success and 2014’s Grass Punks, in addition to collaborations with John C. Reilly (like our Folkadelphia Session), Becky Stark, Gregory Page, and Angela Correa (as a duo called Les Shelleys), Brosseau has told simple yet wholly affecting stories.

There’s something just so organic, homespun, and down-to-earth about Tom’s process that makes him magnetic. And like a catchy ear-worm of a melody, what really takes a hold of the listener of Tom’s songs are the images he presents. I think of Tom’s songs and I can immediately recall snapshots of a lover being ignored by another too involved with their “device” (“Cradle Your Device“), a desperate woman stranded on the roof during a snowfall (“Stuck on the Roof Again“), a dream of Dave Grohl wrapped in chains (“Favorite Color Blue”), and a view from a boy abandoned in a department store’s clothing rack (“Hard Luck Boy“), to name a few. There’s life being lived in each one of Brosseau’s songs – messy, beautiful, relatable life. Perhaps what makes Tom Brosseau’s music so rare is that it requires that kind of close listening that is akin to keeping pace with the plot of a novel, a thing that feels nearly antiquated in modern day songwriting. But for those of us willing to listen, we’re rewarded with a treasure trove of stories, pictures, and postcards from all over. Thanks Tom!

For our Folkadelphia Session, Tom performed with collaborator and touring companion Andru Bemis. We soon will be sharing music from Andru’s side of the session too, so stay tuned. Catch Tom Brosseau back in Philadelphia with Robert Ellis at the Milkboy Philadelphia venue on June 25th. Brosseau’s latest album is 2015’s Perfect Abandon, one of Folkadelphia’s favorites of that year.

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