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Tommy And The High Pilots
Sawhorse Sessions
Red Bird Records
www.thehighpilots.com


Unplug your guitar and as a band you're instantly stepping into a new dimension of music. Many of the greats have attempted the "acoustic album", but many have failed. This is not the case with the gents of Tommy & The High Pilots. Their recent endeavor, Sawhorse Sessions, is an example of an acoustic album done right.

A mere 5 songs long is all that this journey lasts, but the places it takes you are vast. With "Nothin's Free", it's the beauty of three-part harmonies - two voices and a guitar. The pain of love and life comes flowing out through Tommy Cantillon's emotional lyrics. And there's a strong James Taylor vibe coming through the melody and out of the speakers on this number.

When you try a new method with your music, naturally the curiosity peaks as you wonder how a previously recorded song might change. With this EP the band took a song from American Riviera and went the "unplugged" route. "The Limit" is a great song in its original form, but on Sawhorse it's morphed into a raw, beautiful, masterpiece. The intimate nature of the song comes out in the first few moments when you feel as though you're next to Tom, listening to his strings rattle away. With the popularity of the former album, most are going to have the lyrics of this song already embedded in their minds. This works to the benefit of the song however, as the mind is free to concentrate on the guitar and all the sounds it creates. The power of the vocals is not lost; rather it complements the elegance of the fingers as they run across each string. Lullaby chords, paired with vocals from deep within the gut, make this a contender for the title "ballad".

Even with the electric guitar gone, a band still has to figure out some way to get the audience moving. With "Lorraine" this is exactly what the High Pilots did. A strong folk beat is present from the beginning in the percussion section. And with the slight shake of a tambourine, you've got the stage set for a foot-stomping good time. If you weren't convinced yet, then you weren't listening to the lyrics. Yelling out to the mystical "Lorraine", the question "where's my money gone??" comes off full of attitude, and with each repetition beckons some crowd participation with the other harmonizing members on stage.

The final step on the journey is with "Lonely Place" and once again we're taken to a place of solitude and beauty. This time the drums have a jazz tempo and sentiment about them. The vocals are a little mellower, but only by a touch. Eventually the song flows seamlessly into a faster tempo, with more gusto behind each member. Then with the bellowing vocals, the heavy attention-laden cymbals and the accompanying folky piano, it's the latter half of the song that will definitely pump up your energy.

If a band can't do acoustic the right way, they should never do it at all. Well, luckily for Tommy & The High Pilots (and for fans alike), they've got the right way down pat.

-Rachel Fredrickson

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