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.
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