Where ya been, Ren?! AWOL, that's where. Now hush with your questions; I'll wander aimlessly all over the world if I want to.
I've been writing this particular entry for a couple of weeks now. I'll start by saying I love what these guys do. I first struck them when they did the music for this excellent video , promoting the beautiful Southern region for the RWC. I'm a Southerner from way back, and although they're actually from Wellington, TTOB have just nailed this sound. I always get a teensey bit homesick watching this.
But - and it's a big but - I admit I was a little nervous about this album. I love TTOB's bluesy rock style, but having seen them live a number of times I've sometimes (sometimes!) felt they get a little indulgent on the progressive rock side and that that detracts from their awesome bluesy rock-y--ness. I've felt in the past that there can sometimes (sometimes!) be a bit of a tendency to get a bit too Dave Matthews on it all. (Let it be said, there is definitely a time and place in my heart for Dave Matthews, but the Thomas Oliver Band is just so good in their own right and I love their raw bluesy stuff so much more.) (As an aside, I believe The Ethnomusicologist compared them with Bon Jovi.) (Which I happen to think is unjustifiably harsh.)
ANYWAY, the short point is, I am utterly pleased to report that this album hits the sweet spot of that dirty sound that I love, without venturing too far into softer prog rock. I confess to having a bit of a *crush* (yes, I am 13, whatever) on Thomas Oliver himself - there's something doggedly and self-assuredly attractive about him, and frankly I'm convinced he's a bit of a genius. I just adore watching him play the lapsteel. There are also few things in life more satisfying than a beautifully strummed acoustic guitar, and Thomas Oliver knows how to rock one. At the end of the day though, these guys just write great songs, they play them well, and they know how to entertain. Highlights of this album for me are the title track, actually the first 3 tracks in a row are all really good, and sentimental though it may be (do what I want) after 2 months offshore there was nothing quite like landing back into beautiful New Zealand to 'The Strangest Feeling I'm Home'. Perfection.
There are a few moments in this album where the direction tends towards the softer prog rock side than I'd ideally go for (track 9, for example) - that said, they are few and far between and the album as a whole retains its integrity. I might be biased, but I reckon the one thing that could lift some of TTOB's stuff into the sublimely fantastic would be the occasional loose saloon style piano. I'm just sayin'.
I was prompted to reinvigorate this entry after I saw TTOB play on the Auckland waterfront yesterday afternoon. Sunshine, some lovely lapsteel, good friends and a weekend delivering on all kinds of excellent promises -- it's fair to say it was a superb combination and I was having a pretty good time. But not as good a time as this guy....
In short: love 'em, think they're great, love them best when they do their dirty blues stuff, think there's more room for more excellent music like this out of this great country.