The title cut from Blake Thomas' new poignant new album Flatlands is mournful, even morose at points. But it's not a downer. Not at all.
As he confesses his sense of rootlessness and feelings of profound isolation, Thomas stretches the tune's simple country-folk melody with his portentous baritone, suggesting that there's something deeper and darker and far more painful troubling him than words can convey. And his vocal delivery is so elemental, so compelling that you want to follow him to that desolate place, despite the psychological consequences of the journey.
When Thomas teases pathos from the chorus, brooding and yearning until the backing tracks fall away and all you hear is his voice naked in the mix, the emotions are so raw, so up front and unmediated that you can't help but wonder if he shuddered each time he bent into the spit screen and moaned "This is not my home." His performance has that kind of intensity about it. And again, he's not wallowing in misery.
In it's way, "Flatlands" is a hopeful tune. It's about hanging on, not giving way to depression and hopelessness. And that's part of its strength: even though Thomas finds parts of himself reflected in a grey wasteland, he knows that journey is taking him somewhere else.
Kudos to Thomas for tearing this performance from the pith of his being, and kudos to Justin Perkins for cradling in a gorgeous, almost telepathic mix.
An MP3 of the track is available in the related downloads at right. More songs by Thomas can by listened to on his MySpace page. There are plenty of chances to catch his live performances; in addition to a weekly Tuesday night gig at Mickey's Tavern, Thomas is playing at show at The Frequency on Wednesday, August 20 and at the Willy Street Fair on Saturday, September 20.
MadTracks highlights and provides MP3s of songs performed by local musicians. All tracks here are provided with permission of the artist. If you are a musician based in the Madison metro area and are interested in sharing your work as a MadTrack, please send a message.