Blues, one can argue, is timeless music. Musically, it generally adheres to well-established forms that aren't subject to passing fad or current trend. Lyrically it deals with the eternal verities - life, love, death, and all the important stuff in between. Might as well throw God and the devil in there, too!
Which explains the simple, straightforward appeal of solo acoustic blues - one man, one guitar.
Tom Feldmann's second outing, "Drunk Man's Dream," adheres to time-honoured traditions. But with the exception of the Son House classic "Death Letter Blues," all the cuts are originals that manage to respect those traditions without sounding stale or dated. And while he may be following in the footsteps of giants - in addition to Mr. House, the names Lightnin' Hopkins, Bukka White, and Mississippi John Hurt come readily to mind -he's definitely no pale imitator. Tom's doing things on his terms here, telling his own stories.
And those stories come damn close to being minor masterpieces; tales of pain and sorrow, wrongs done and redemption sought. Themes of weight and import, indeed. Yet harrowing though the journey may be, somehow Tom leaves one with the impression that ultimately, no matter how dark the night, there's hope to be had. Maybe it's just the strange dichotomy of the blues, that curiously cathartic quality that comes once all the sorrow and pain is voiced. But without it, the pain might well be too much to bear. The human heart is indeed a strange and wondrous thing, and Tom seems to have a profound understanding of its mysterious ways.
Instrumentally, Tom proves himself an adept and agile finger-picker. There's nothing exactly jaw-dropping here, but he's clearly done his homework, and knows how to craft suitable soundscapes that lend a musical urgency to his narratives. And his voice, shot through with a slight quaver that suggests fragility, nonetheless retains an underlying strength, the kind that suggests a surprising and indomitable resilience. Tom's blessed, too, with just the right touch of ragged to lend an unquestionable authenticity to every phrase.
Kudos to sound man Jeff Thornton, who's managed to establish a warm intimacy and an ambient immediacy on the recording. Any (minor) sonic problems are easily overlooked when one considers that the whole disc was cut in a single afternoon in an acoustically accommodating and historically significant hall. Which means the sound is real and honest.
Same as Tom's music.
Maple Island Records
18617 HWY 104 South
Glenwood, MN 56334
This review is copyright © 2001 by John Taylor, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.
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