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What I Mean to Say Is Goodbye

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Album Review

Back in the late '60s and early '70s, "singer/songwriter" meant something very specific: an artist, either male or female, who had initially been involved in the '60s collegiate folk scene but had been inspired by Bob Dylan and his peers into moving into a more personal and pop-oriented sound. Their early albums had minimal backing musicians behind the main performer's voice and instrument (usually an acoustic guitar, occasionally a piano), the album covers had gauzy soft-focus close-up photos, and the artists invariably lived in Laurel Canyon. It's unclear what part of Los Angeles Tom Brosseau calls home, but anyone with a sense of pop music history who was exposed to What I Mean to Say Is Goodbye without prior knowledge would immediately think it was an obscurity that came out on Reprise or Elektra sometime around 1971. Although Brosseau has an impressively all-star set of guests — Benmont Tench (Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers) on keyboards, Pete Thomas (Elvis Costello & the Attractions) on drums, Sara Watkins (Nickel Creek) on fiddle, and Jon Brion (producer of half the artists in L.A.) on second guitar — the 12 songs all keep his voice and guitar at the forefront. Songs like "West of Town," an elegy about the 1997 flood that destroyed much of his North Dakota hometown, and the even more personal "Tonight I Am Careful With You" sound so intimate and plain that even covers of Hank Williams' "That's When Your Heartache Begins" and the traditional "In My Time of Dyin'" (with haunting guest vocals from Angela Correa) are of a piece with Brosseau's sparse originals. Though it may sound at times like a retro simulation of a time and place long past, What I Meant to Say Is Goodbye is musically and emotionally richer than mere mimicry.


Born: 03 November 1976 in Grand Forks, ND

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Grand Forks, North Dakota native Tom Brosseau grew up with music, listening to Marty Robbins, Bob Dylan, Pablo Casals, and Lead Belly, with a bluegrass-playing grandmother who taught him the guitar and a grandfather who had a band and a large record collection. After graduating from the University of North Dakota, Brosseau enrolled in music school but dropped out after only a few weeks, feeling that music theory classes took the fun out of playing. Instead, he started performing at open-mike nights...
Full bio
What I Mean to Say Is Goodbye, Tom Brosseau
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