Michael Tomlinson,
Trace the Sky
(Desert Rain, 1998)

The first word out of my mouth after putting this disc on was, "WOW!" Why haven't I heard of this performer before, I truly have to wonder. This enigmatic artist literally jumps out of the speakers and fills your home with his vibrant performance. The music on this disc is light jazz, folk and pretty much just light listening, but it has vibrant tones which beckon and enchant like jewels sparkling in the sunshine. Michael's music is filled with simplicity and honesty, and his vocal abilities are astounding -- his can run through a number of notes while singing only one syllable. There is honest emotion filling each and every track on this disc, and it is palpable.

Michael was born and raised in Amarillo, Texas, but has since moved to Seattle. He was at a career peak in the early '90s, headlining at the Greek Amphitheatre in Los Angeles, when he turned his back on the business and walked away. With this drastic change Michael returned to Seattle and brought about the birth of his own label -- Desert Rain. Slowly he is rebuilding his career in a quieter, more personal manner, a manner which is more fitting of the style of his music.

"Choices" is the disc's opening track, and the one which caught my full attention within the first few strains. This energetic track deals with Michael's life and career, putting it all into perspective for himself and for his fans. It is an very upbeat piece, and contains some sage advice in the chorus -- "Whoever said we were born to lose? / I don't think he really knew / If we can make a habit, we can break it / It's what we've got to do / I don't believe we're bound to fail / Simply 'cause we usually do / Open your heart and set it like a sail / And find a world that's true / A sound so clear, like a clarion call / Through the wall of fear / Where we lived so long...."

The title track "Trace the Sky" is a wonderful analogy between the seasons and Michael's own romantic life. His lyrics are rich with descriptive turns, painting a beautiful backdrop for the emotions to be found here. This is a slower track, filled with all of the rich warm tones which can be coaxed from a guitar.

"Stars" deals with the weather, and living in the same area as this artist, I can easily relate to this number. We see an abundance of rain in the Pacific Northwest, and it is hard not to let that influence your life in one way or another; this song is a good example of that. "Here in this city that floats in the rain / The weather is all that I am / The raindrops are many and I'm just a man / Wondering how long I can swim...." Michael's dog Bungee makes a brief appearance at the end of this track.

[ by Naomi de Bruyn ]
Rambles: 17 November 2001

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