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A master carpenter with a master’s in poetry, singer/songwriter Thomas Dollbaum does indeed keep one foot in the real world and the other in the ephemeral on his debut Wellwood. Keenly aware of craft, yet willing to follow his musical spirit into the ether if necessary, the Tampa-born New Orleans resident populates his songs with wry romantics who have no illusions but still cling to hope. The melancholy pop/soul of “All is Well” boasts the kind of melody you’d always imagined Alex Chilton writing, while “God’s Country” slackens its country rock arrangement with bluesy looseness. The album-closing “Break Your Bones” beams in its acoustica from an alt.counry dimension of pure emotion, while the tuneful, lonesome heartland of “Strange” rides a long highway from the ‘70s into a psychedelic refraction of same. The rootsy “Gold Teeth” could become a lighter-waving anthem in lesser hands, but here it’s an intimate confession given a rock turbocharge. “Every time I oughta shut the fuck up I gotta run my mouth and mean nothin’ I say,” he sings in the folky fingerpicked “Work Hard” – which, given its lackadaisical delivery, could be self-aggrandizement as easily as self-laceration. Aptitude meets abstraction and it’s all swirled together until it hums. It’s very difficult to find new paths through SingerSongwriterLand, but Dollbaum finds his by drawing from both the poetry and carpentry sides of his brain, consciously or not, and that alone heralds the arrival of a major young talent.
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