Robert Bush noon, July 27
Sound description: Folky acoustic-emo, evocative of railroad hobos, yodeling contests, and barnyard hoedowns.
RIYL: Gregory Page, Tom Waits, John Doe, Gary Davis, the Mills Brothers, Elliott Smith, JJ Cale
Upcoming Local Shows
- Java Joe's — Thursday, July 31, 8pm
- "Record Release Roundup" · Jan. 8, 2014
- "Chasing Gregory Page" · Dec. 11, 2013
- Website · July 15, 2007
- Musician Interviews · June 23, 2005
Inception: San Diego, 2001
Influences: Planxty, Gregory Page, George and Ira Gershwin, Cole Porter, Jerome Kern, Harold Arlen, David Garza, Frank Black, Mahalia Jackson, Sister R. Tharpe, the Ink Spots, Mississippi John Hurt, Gregory Page, Tom Waits, Elizabeth Cotton, Planxty, Seamus Ennis, Benny Goodman, Guy Lombardo, Les Paul, Georgia White, Mahalia Jackson, Red Allen, Roscoe Holcomb, Louvin Brothers, Chet Baker, Leonard Cohen, Hank Williams, Hank Snow, Hank Thompson, Ferlin Husky, Faron Young, Marty Robbins, Bessy Smith, Lonnie Johnson
Singer/songwriter Tom Brosseau doesn't mind people calling his music old-timey. After all, he learned to play at the feet of his father and grandfather, who were in a pre-rock band together called Buck and the Buccaneers (and whose album collections were, to say the least, vintage).
"I am an old soul, and so I think that comes out in my voice," says Brosseau. "My favorite songwriters are George and Ira [Gershwin] and also Cole Porter and Jerome Kern. I don't really play the guitar very well, but I use it as a guide, and so sometimes it's more like vaudeville."
The Grand Forks, North Dakota, native moved to San Diego in 2001 and quickly became one half of the American Folk Singers, alongside Gregory Page. "I got taken under his wing; he was the first person I met [in San Diego]. A gal by the name of Genevieve Mantle introduced me to him. She was a fan of his. So many women love Gregory Page. So many men do, too."
The duo's first album was taped in Page's living room over two days, through an old phonograph. Page also ended up working on Brosseau's solo CD, but that was a mere starting point. “The first album Gregory and I made, I remember it taking all my savings, plus a personal loan from my grandmother.... When it came time to having CDs manufactured, I ordered so many that, once stacked inside my apartment, I barely could shake my own foot.
“So, with a backpack [full] of my album, my Gibson J-40 acoustic guitar, a smart haircut, polished shoes, dress clothes, I began in the Mission Hills neighborhood, door upon door, saying hello, my name is Tom Brosseau. I’m from Grand Forks, North Dakota. I play folk music. I’m new in town. I have an album of music for sale. I know you’ll like it.”
For Brosseau's 2005 album, What I Mean to Say Is Goodbye, producer Sam Jones brought in players like Benmont Tench (keyboardist from Tom Petty's band) and Pete Thomas (Elvis Costello's drummer).
In early 2012, Brosseau toured Europe with Damien Jurado and began recording a new full-length with bluegrass artist Sean Watkins (Nickel Creek). He also occasionally tours with John Reilly & Friends, as well as recording a vinyl 7-inch with Reilly that was released by Third Man Records and produced by Jack White.
Later in 2012, Brosseau began splitting his time between Grand Forks and San Diego, eventually resettling away from San Diego, though he frequently returns to play shows. “The album Sean Watkins [Nickel Creek, Fiction Family] and I have been working on is in its final stage,” he announced at the time. “Also in the new year, I’ll be touring some more with the John Reilly & Friends band.”
Brosseau and Watkins did a short west coast tour in June 2013 in support of a Brosseau album produced by Watkins not due out until Autumn, though a limited edition CD was being sold at shows. Brosseau then joined John Reilly & Friends for midwest tour.
“Cradle Your Device,” the first single from his 2013 full-length Grass Punks, was covered in a spotlight for the NPR program All Songs Considered. Recorded and produced by North County bluegrass artist Sean Watkins, who also played guitar, bass, mandolin, and synth pads, the album includes a song with the Google-friendly title “Gregory Page of San Diego.”
A digital EP released by Crossbill Records in late May 2014 is comprised of three tracks: the second Grass Punks single "Today Is A Bright New Day," a Grass Punks studio outtake "Running From Zombies," and a live recording of the gospel standard "When The Saints Go Marching In."
The acoustic crooner spent May and June 2014 on tour with the Milk Carton Kids in Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, California, and Arizona, and a retrospective compilation album was announced to be in the works, likely to include early early recordings, demos, outtakes, live songs, and radio sessions, all officially unreleased material.
Around the same time, a new single was released online, “Empire Builder/ Goodbye, Empire Builder.”