Folk-Americana Artist Tommy Alexander Puts Gruff Vocals and Honest Lyrics on Display with ‘Waves’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

Portland-based musician Tommy Alexander has always sounded remarkably like Johnny Cash. From the gruff vocals, stripped of all pretension, to the straight-forward honesty in his lyrics, it’s hard not to picture the late great Cash delivering these songs. Nowhere is that more apparent than on Waves, Alexander’s latest studio effort. 

The guitar sound on the stellar opening track, “Troubled Mind,” even sounds a bit like Cash’s trademark jangly riffs. But even though Alexander anchors his music in Americana and classic country, he also manages to swerve in and out of various genres, from folk to pop and various hybrids of them all throughout the record. 

He also may have proactively penned one of the best songs to complement our collective mood with “End of the World,” a smartly written track about facing tough times and still finding glimmers of optimism to get through those dark moments. Elsewhere Alexander tackles personal fare, like on the gut-wrenching “Stone Fox,” about a couple’s relationship imploding, with the guitars speaking as eloquently and effectively as the lyrics. Another powerful track here is “I Blame Myself,” a folk song that showcases Alexander at his most vulnerable moment on the record, his voice nearly cracking with emotion as he delivers the lyrics over delicate guitar and subtle drums. At just over two-and-a-half minutes, this song manages to be one of the shortest and sparsest tracks on the record, but also one of the most memorable.

Alexander closes Waves out with the “Live & Die,” an up-tempo track backed by just enough twang to please the cowboys and enough optimism to make you want to immediately go back and listen to the entire album again. 

 

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