Review of Tom Mcrae's album The Alphabet of Hurricanes released through Cooking Vinyl.
Former Foyles book store employee and ex City Of London Poly Politics & Government graduate, born in Chelmsford to not one, but two, vicars who just happens to have a messiah complex and slightly obsessive fly fishing flight of fancy releases his fifth studio album after 3 years of creative toil. Tom McRae, the forty something Essex boy who relocated to the gold paved streets of London to star in bands as enticingly titled as 'Ministers Of Orgasm' and 'Raising Cain' has been both Mercury and Brit Award Nominated. 'The Alphabet Of Hurricanes' is the latest release from the well travelled Mr McRae who has now settled back down in the capital after spells in LA and New York. (The Americans are big fans of his work).
Some time chorister Tom is a well respected singer-songwriter with a growing fan base and loyal following. His song writing quality has even been compared to both Nick Cave and Tom Waits! The poet Simon Armitage has taken time out to tell us just how good Tom McRae is and why we should be listening to his music. The records Tom makes, he says, have 'unapologetic intelligence in a world where popular music has pawned its soul to the television schedules.'
The Alphabet Of Hurricanes starts off very well (Putting the slight Paolo Nutini resemblance aside) with the gentle, dark, piano and banjo lament 'I Still Love You'. A fine, 51 second long, piece of music follows in 'A Is For...'. This is the music of a Jewish Parisian Snake charmer if ever I heard it. Its clarinet charms carry through onto 'Won't Lie', where the carefree 60's meets an Eastern European waltz.....'And I know I'm born with a prophets curse, never see the good, only see the worst.' 'Summer Of John Wayne' with its more melodramatic piano score and distorted guitar builds and breaks wonderfully, adding to Hurricanes pleasures. 'American Spirit', is where the album starts to falter slightly. Here, and elsewhere, Tom falls for the all too often used musical mistake of confusing slow and low for meaningful and good. On 'Please' we have a full ensemble piece featuring fiddles and drums in a Celtic vs Country up tempo (For Tom) toe tapper. 'Out Of The Walls', Tom's recent free album taster download, is another slow balladic number that would probably sound great if it were belted out by Mr Springsteen live on stage. Here it just sounds rather sombre. 'Me & Stetson' is full of a Deep South psyche, imbued with a devilish undercurrent, helped along by a menacing piano, hand claps and just a touch of brass. Tom wraps proceedings up nicely with a few clichés and a somewhat Dylan esc performance on 'Fifteen Miles Downriver'.....
'And I've swum against the tide
and been breathless all my life,
now I'm drifting free,
and it's time I realised
a man can't fight the tide
and the moon has more influence than me...'
The Alphabet Of Hurricanes won't knock you side ways or blow you off your feet. However, it may leave a lasting impression of well crafted, narrative songs. Tom McRae's fifth full length creation deserves to re-ignite his initially bright solo spark. He is touring the UK from late February, through March into early April, catch him live if you can.