In his new album, “Who You Were,” Tom Rhodes writes with blood, sweat, tears, grit, and beauty. It’s a heartfelt, soulful collection of songs, full of attitude, warmth, and beautiful arrangements featuring award-winning musicians and harmonies from some of the best-loved singers in the Bay.
Tom’s songwriting is powerful and in peak form on this record. The turns of phrase are sharp and the poetry is thoughtful and moving, no more apparent then on “Embrace the Judas,” a song about loving the hardest people in your life, or “Who You Were”, his beautiful tribute to the passing of his father.
I’ve got reason in my rhythm/and a fire in my heart to light the way, Tom sings in “Embrace the Judas.”. In “Who You Were”, moments in his life today unexpectedly transport him back to memories of his father. There are playful moments in the record too; “Gotta Get” has a touch of Paul Simon in its playfulness but Tom makes the sound his own, bringing in The Lady Crooners, a golden-voiced talent from the bay, to give the song an upbeat, throw-back vibe. Tom is at his best on the record when the songs wander and bend artfully and playfully around genres, with an unexpected melody or a Greek myth woven into the poetry, like in “Orpheo Mourn” or “New Aphrodite.”
But poetry isn’t the only thing the album has going for it. More than the exceptional lyrics, it’s the vocal delivery of the record is what truly sets it apart into a class of its own. Tom Rhodes sometimes croons the words, sometimes growls them, but his voice is always pleasant, at times playful or sorrowful, and many times shockingly beautiful. He feels the songs with such authentic joy and sorrow that you know he’s lived every word of them, in one way or another.
“Who You Were” is a delight, and should be in every music fan’s library. It’s all honest, and all delightful. It’s full of fire, heart, and the kind of uncanny magic that is often lacking in today’s world of overworked phrases and cliché musicality. The final track and the starting track echo the same sentiment – that there’s always a way back home, that saying goodbye is hard but necessary and sometimes beautiful, and that a good collection of songs, like this, can bring us closer to the heart of everything.
Support the artist: Get “Who You Were” Today on iTunes!
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Tom’s release show for “Who You Were” is July 14th at The Freight and Salvage in Berkeley – don’t miss a wonderful night of music! RSVP here using the FB event.