Tom Hambridge,
Balderdash
(Artemis, 2000)

Buffalo, N.Y., native Tom Hambridge's solo debut is a rockin' good time, with no illusions about its nature: folk and country influences aside, it is a rock record through and through. Hambridge has a gravelly, strident voice and pours it fully into every track, from the tortured "Strong Enough" to the country-inspired "Opposites Attract," a duet with Grammy nominee Susan Tedeschi, to the stripped-down straightforwardness of "Fever."

Hambridge began his musical career as a drummer and plays all the drums on Balderdash. Playing drums rather than guitar lends him a different perspective on music and makes the 12 tracks he's written on this record original. They have a rhythm to them that is centered around the heartbeat of his drums.

He teams with Tedeschi a second time for a power ballad called "Long Way Home." Their voices are perfectly suited for this kind of tortured love song, which still has an upbeat drum track and screaming guitars. "Big & Empty" sees Hambridge on drums and tambourine, with a bit more sadness in his voice. He softens his tone to showing his range as a vocalist as he sings about a relationship breaking up.

Hambridge adapts a lullaby he sang to his oldest daughter in "Rachel Fay" -- as unlikely as it sounds, he's turned it into a kickin' ode to "my little redhead girl." He searches for a place and a woman to call home in "Highway," featuring Tedeschi again on background vocals.

The flow of the record falters a bit towards the end, with "Rock Me Right" and "12 Inches"; he sacrifices originality for rock 'n' roll heroics.

On the whole, this is a strong record -- the songwriting is good and the music is part good old rock 'n' roll and part modern pop/rock. His music harkens back to an earlier era of pure rock, while the majority of his lyrics fit with the more complex themes of modern popular music.

[ by Rachel Jagt ]
Rambles: 8 July 2001



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