When Boston band Buffalo Tom disappeared for almost a decade in the mid 2000s it would be hard to argue they were in the "much missed" category for most people. But their loyal core had their albums Birdbrain, Let Me Come Over (which included the wonderful Taillights Fade) and Sleepy Eyed as cornerstones in their collection.
Their return in 2007 with Three Easy Pieces confirmed their magical blend of alt.rock and indie.country with just enough power pop was still intact.
Here that original trio return with the template untampered with again, and have as guest Tanya Donnelly on the lovely, mandolin-enhanced ballad Don't Forget Me.
Guilty Girls with its guitar chime, country-rock structure and pop chorus is almost archetypal BT material and as with their best material has you winding the window down and slipping into cruise control.
There are some classic-sounding BT songs about real life and unanswered prayers, marriage and loss here; the mid-tempo piano-based Miss Barren Brooks; the slow Springsteen-like emotional croak of Paper Knife about disappointment and regret in love; the acoustic The Hawks and the Sparrows ("I tried love and marriage . . .) sung by Chris Colbourn perhaps?; the power pop stadium-rock guitar crunch of The Kids Just Sleep . . .
Songwriter Bill Janovitz always had an empathy for characters which some in the genre don't and that is evident here in Here I Come ("there are people living lives out of the light, out of the spotlight, there are babies being born to people you don't know, but here they go and here they come . . .")
And as they have so often done, they can deliver a self-questioning heartbreaker which drags you in, here in the last song Out of the Dark.
Buffalo Tom have always eschewed embellishment in favour of the direct and that is here in both melody and lyric. So no change really -- and this is the very good news.
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By Graham Reid, posted