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Tommy Alexander | Maybe One Day

album review by John Powell

Tommy Alexander | Maybe One Day

Armed with an acoustic guitar and a lot of emotion, Tommy Alexander writes strong-willed songs with poetic lyrics, a batch of which is on Maybe One Day. Recorded in Burlington, VT, the album also references the Green Mountains and has a song named after the 14th state. There’s a genuine underground singer/songwriter vibe here, and in that sense Tommy’s on to something, but the album’s cracks need repairs, for sure.

Unfortunately, Maybe One Day starts with the weakest track, the title track. Tommy’s voice is generally strained, a whiny mix of wispy and hurt. “I’ve been lost in the overwhelming storm,” he sings. “The edge is never smooth, but it’s good enough.” The issue here is that the song, focused on the hazy future, lacks foundation. It’s a string of semi-poetic lines taped together because they rhyme, and when Tommy sings, “I got a part to play,” a feeling of rehashed lyrics seems clear.

That being said, and getting that out of the way, “Top of the Hour” is much stronger. Tommy’s playing is a blues-based folk strum, quiet in the mix with his vocals loud. “I was so lost/ I must have had to get found,” he sings. “We had it all/it was wrapped up in gold.” But once again we’re left in a half painted picture of the narrator’s world. “I’m on a train now,” he offers in verse two. He says “If Boston has a soul/it left it at a Red Sox game.” What’s pulled from that? He’s running from a woman, but doesn’t really have anywhere to go. We don’t know why he’s trying to get away. We don’t know what the conflict is.

Similarly, “Sarah”, a slow ballad about a woman, is a major to minor guitar lament. “I gotta get a move on/I gotta get out.” Is this the same girl from “Top of the Hour”? Tommy’s guitar playing is much stronger than his vocals, but his intentions are good. He wants to build a relationship with his audience, to get them invested in the cold world full of inner struggle that he’s whipped up. He achieves this partly, like with “Sarah”, which is nearly catchy and certainly honest.

It’s all worth it for “Vermont”, however, a beautiful folk song. “I’m just the empty nest,” it begins. For once, Tommy loses his strained, stressed vocals, and gives in to softer lament. The song represents a hideaway. “I’m not playing those games no more,” he bargains, and here, because he’s loftier, it’s more sincere. The song comes out of nowhere, nestled halfway through the album, something akin to A.A. Bondy or Jeff Tweedy solo, a woodsy glimmer of light in the dark.

For whatever reason, the potential here brims. Tommy’s got focus, lyrically building up momentum, and all he needs is to wrestle his emotions through to the core. This is the fate of many singer/songwriters, but Tommy seems capable of coming out the other side with something strong and documenting lyricism and musicianship, as it should be.

Bottom line: A singer/songwriter’s near hit with certain lines that break your heart.


 

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