Damn, The Tourist Company just formed up earlier this year and already here is their studio debut Brother, Wake Up, recorded sometime in February by a group of musicians who clearly knew what they were doing. Officially a trio, The Tourist Company often sounds much larger than that. This may be because singer and songwriter Taylor Swindells is a multi-instrumentalist and is often able to bring in other dimensions of sound to the songs (banjo, mandolin, piano, etc.), but besides that, the songs themselves just sound deep, both in terms of production and tone.
The earthy music upholds a strictly folk aesthetic, and on that note the musicians enter some interesting jam territory, like on the end of "Let Me Live." Drummer and percussionist Brenon Parry makes himself very known despite his sounds rarely coming at the forefront of the songs. Often they're soft and even, rattling and rustling beneath the bittersweet duets of Swindells and Jillian Levey. I'd argue that the latter two have the "quintessential modern folk sound" down pat, deep and bassy, with Levey providing counterpoint to Swindells' wounded troubadour persona.
The music doesn't shake things up too much. It is perfectly content to be a companion to your lonely nights with a mug of beer. "Mrs." is escorted for the most part by soft guitar playing and gentle harmonica until the end, when the pitch increases and takes the listener by surprise. It accentuates the mood while also signifying the album is over. I bring this up because this is a recurring motif in Brother, Wake Up, the gentle introduction of the players before they decide to temporarily rock out. The passion of "You Left Us Both" steadily rises throughout the track before it climax's and gives way to soft strumming and lightweight percussion. On the excellent "My Son" banjo and trumpet help bridge the soft vocals to heavier territory involving a noticeable dip in volume that then jumps into a short climax and much more powerful drumming than previously revealed.
The music isn't particularly striking, but The Tourist Company's penchant for tension and release is top-notch and one of the greatest strengths of this album. Recommended primarily for folks who enjoy folk music, but I'd be willing to bet if I played this at a bar during a snowstorm no one would turn it off.
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