Ratings and Reviews
Another fantastic release.
I first became a fan of Tom's music a few years ago at a show I attended with friends in London. This was shortly after the release of his first EP, “On The Line,” which has featured prominently on playlists on road trips and at weekend house parties (which happen to be the two times I listen to music most) ever since.
As emotionally resonant as Tom's vocals come through in the “On The Line” recordings, his live interpretations are even more impressive. After that first show in London, I quickly became a regular at Tom's performances: not just because I found his early material inspirational, but also because he was debuting new, then-unrecorded songs, and the only way to hear them was live.
One of these new songs in particular struck a chord with me the first time I heard it: “Highway.” Beyond its hooking instrumentation, catching melody, and stirring vocal harmony, “Highway” showcases, for me, one of Tom’s greatest strengths - his songwriting. More specifically, Tom’s appeal to me as an artist is his ability to combine music with the imagery he paints with lyrics to create a moving narrative where I naturally insert myself as a listener. Tom is adept at identifying feelings, translating them into art, and delivering them meaningfully through heartfelt performance.
“Highway” is a perfect demonstration of this talent. In my interpretation of it, at least, the song is set against the backdrop of a highway as a metaphor for life. It’s against this backdrop that, in the second verse, we hear:
I’m working nine to five and it kills my soul /
I don’t want to die with nothing to show /
I never want to stagnate, stagnate /
I’ve got to find my own way home /
You’re never gonna know if you never go /
I first heard these lyrics at a junction in my own life when I was trying to decide between a more unknown, more difficult, but potentially more meaningful career path and one that was more secure but also less inspiring. I have no delusions about being the first person to face such a decision (nor about Tom’s being the first to look at life as a journey), but what makes the song powerful is precisely Tom’s ability to tap into a broad array of listener experiences to pull them into the song through a relatable personal narrative (the first four lines all start with “I” but are progressively personal, culminating in “I’ve” got to find “my own” way home) before turning the story back to the listener (the last line starts with “You” and entreating you to “go” and not to “die with nothing to show,” not to “stagnate,” and to find your “own way home”).
In addition to the quality of songwriting in “Highway,” this recording succeeds perhaps more than the “On The Line” EP in capturing just a taste of the feeling of a live performance. The vocals and guitars, at least in my listening, seem to be mastered with just enough reverb and a dash of gain for an open yet crunchy feel - a fresh, authentic take on Tom's folk-rock stylings.
“Highway” is just one example of Tom’s talent as a songwriter, performer, and recording artist. Perhaps not everyone will encounter the song at a time of such personal decision making. But it is evident from all Tom’s music that his approach to songwriting is at once personally reflective and broadly relatable. Given this style, I’m confident many will find similar inspiration in his music.
If you ever get a chance to hear Tom live, take advantage of it. In the meantime, buy his music, enjoy his thought-provoking yet approachable style, and support a talented artist.