Tom Brosseau is a 28-year-old singer from North Dakota. He's got great buzz in clubs here around Los Angeles, where he's been performing. His new album, Empty Houses Are Lonely, is full of spare of acoustic arrangements, pretty melodies and more despair than one lonely troubadour should have to endure. Here's music critic Christian Hoard with the review.

(Soundbite of song from album “Empty Houses Are Lonely”)


On first listen to Tom Brosseau's mostly acoustic songs, his biggest asset seems to be a voice that recalls the androgynous swoops and swoons of sensitive compatriots, like Jeff Buckley and Devendra Banhart. But Brosseau's newest album, and third overall, Empty Houses Are Lonely, makes his homespun charm with tunes that alternately conjure classic acoustic blues and sepia tone daydreams.

(Soundbite of song “Lonesome Valley”)

Mr. TOM BROSSEAU (Musician): (Singing) It's hard to get you out of my mind. Hard to get you out of my heart. I can't remember when I had happiness last since you've been gone. Since you've been gone, I prayed for salvation.

HOARD: As that song, Lonesome Valley, Shows Brosseau's arrangements tend to meander. Oftentimes, his ruminations about heartbreak and bad memories are just as wandering and a good deal more morose.

(Soundbite of song from album “Empty Houses Are Lonely”)

On How To Grow A Woman From The Ground, Brosseau starts with a story about fishing, turns to his attempts to conjure up a lady friend and sums up the situation with the lines: It's the same kind of feeling in an old folks home; even though you love them, you can't wait for them to go.

Later in the song, things get even darker.

(Soundbite of song “How To Grow A Woman From The Ground”)

Mr. BROSSEAU: (Singing) I sew up my skin. I sew the land with my blood. I stained up my clothes pretty good and I turned the dirt to mud. And I cannot help to close my eyes and lay my body down. ‘Cause I heard it takes forever to grow a woman from the ground.

HOARD: That song points to a problem with Brosseau's material. Every now and then, it feels both depressed and a little undercooked, as if the sad-eyed tune's are hiding their heads in oversized hoodies.

Empty Houses Are Lonely is the kind of no-frills, rainy day folk record that could've been recorded in 1973. And, if it had been, you'd get the feeling you might have become a cult classic by now.

Pretty as they often are, Brosseau's songs are most likely to hit home with listeners who are a little down in the mouth. But in case you're not sure, check out this dolorous vignette appropriately titled Fragile Mind.

(Soundbite of song “Fragile Mind”)

Mr. BROSSEAU: (Singing) Bought a black top hat down in the (unintelligible) to make myself disappear…

CHADWICK: The album is Empty Houses Are Lonely, by Tom Brosseau. Reviewed by Christian Hoard, a writer for Rolling Stone magazine, which, this week, publishes its 1,000th edition.

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