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Grand Forks

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Album Review

Nebraska-born singer/songwriter Tom Brosseau takes a tentative step into full-band folk-rock after several albums focusing almost entirely on solo voice and guitar tunes. Not that this is ornately arranged chamber folk along the lines of Phil Ochs' Tape from California or anything. Some tasteful drums, a little bass, some pedal steel, and on the Tom Waits-like "Down on Skidrow," a little oompah-band accordion — indeed, Grand Forks is only barely more musically elaborate than Brosseau's previous albums. This is not a bad thing, since it keeps the listener's focus on Brosseau's distinctive voice — one of the most appealing in contemporary singer/songwriterdom — with a hint of a Neil Young-styled quaver, but far more trained and polished; Brosseau is one of the few current alt folk singer/songwriters who doesn't affect a faux-bluesy roughness in his voice. This is all the better to appreciate his consistently solid songwriting, which here ranges from the old-time folk reportage of "97 Flood," about a killer flood that devastated much of the Grand Forks area, to a more abstract, poetic riff on the same subject, "Here Come the Water Now."

Customer Reviews

Tom's Brilliant "Concept Album"

I wasn't prepared for the absolute beauty of this disc form North Dakota's finest. Tom really shines on this song cycle. From a homeless drifter living in Grand Forks to a child who accidentally shoots his friend all around the time of the 1997 flood? My mother grew up in Fargo and told me many tales of the Red River and how she wreck havoc on the folks living near it's shore. I’m glad Tom’s decide to honor his "hometown" with this concept record. High points are his duet’s with John Doe (“Fork In The Road”) and Hilary Hahn (“Blue Part Of The Windshield”). The latter’s violin solo is one of the most beautiful passages/moments in popular song, I’ve heard in years and whether it was written for the song or not, it works perfectly with the melancholy tempo and emotion of the song. As a whole, I don’t think Tom’s put out a finer collection of tunes.

There and back again

Every song on this album works; and they work well together. I just loop it. Each song builds on the one before it. "Here Come the Water Now" and "Dark and Shiny Gun" are by far the best 2 tracks, but you enjoy getting to them...and hearing them come around the bend again.


Not Nebraska. Sheesh. In any case, this is one of the best albums of the year. By far. Tom's voice is not of this earth.


Born: November 3, 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

Customer Ratings