Album Review: Thomas Kercheval – We Were Here

If you’re a fan of Scottish rock band Big Country, you’ll love this album. Even if you’re not and you just enjoy quality rock music, you’ll still love it. Tom is a huge Big Country fan (as some reading this will know) and this is obvious in the album’s overall sound. He even played live with Big Country once, but he doesn’t like to talk about it. The album is self produced but this is no lo-fi bedroom portastudio effort; it’s highly professional sounding, but without being overly polished, which is a bigger crime in my book. What makes it more remarkable is that Tom plays all the instruments (according to the CD booklet) with the exception of some additional vocals, and the wind which is ‘courtesy of nature’. As a Big Country fan myself I can hear influences from the whole of the band’s career, from their first album right through to their later work and even demos and B-sides, but without being able to actually pinpoint particular songs. Well maybe just the once with the One Great Thing-like ending on The Ones Who Love You. There is even a track – Quasimodo – that is distinctly Skids sounding (you probably know this already but in case you don’t, the Skids were Big Country founder Stuart Adamson’s previous band.) There are a number of stand-out tracks, the best being Lonely Rider. It has a whole album’s worth of guitar parts crammed into one song, but every one fits perfectly and it never sounds cluttered. And if the guitars are not enough there’s even some keyboard bagpipes. Tom is a multi-instrumentalist, but even his talent doesn’t extend to the bagpipes, or maybe he just doesn’t own a real set, or doesn’t want to drive out all of his neighbours. Flicker is another of the stand-outs and is the most radio friendly song from the collection. It’s a song about love saving you from a destructive, or at least an unfulfilled life. Lyrically the album inhabits much of the Big Country territory, with songs about love, family and war. All except Window Unit, which appears to be a song about air conditioning, but it’s none the worse for it! This song actually contains my favourite lyric – “And you could never see how the weight of world kept pulling on me, and you’ll never understand all the strength you can find in a trembling hand” – poetic.

There are some much heavier moments to be found, particularly Melt Away with its menacing bass-line and lyrics. Then there’s the acoustic lull which gives way to an almighty scream that sounds like he’s channelling some Norwegian rage, followed by a top notch classic rock guitar solo. The album ends on a much lighter note with Papoose; Tom shows his versatility again with a bit of banjo and one of the best vocal performances. It’s hard to find fault with this album at all but if I’m being overly critical I don’t like some of the vocal effects, but strangely they work fantastically well on the female vocals on Flicker. I know we’re only in April so there’s much new music to come this year, but I’m already certain this album will make my end of year top 10.

Score: 9 suns out of 10 dc7ejqKc9

You can preview “We Were Here” on both Spotify and Reverbnation, at

http://www.reverbnation.com/thomaskercheval

The CD is also available at both CDBaby and Bandcamp at:

http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/thomaskercheval

and

http://thomaskercheval.bandcamp.com/releases

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