Thomas Dollbaum Applies Blues and Folk Stylings to Complex Story Songs on ‘Wellswood’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

Photo credit: Cora Nimtz

On his debut album Wellswood, New Orleans by way of Tampa musician Thomas Dollbaum delivers eight no-frills, satisfyingly original songs that pull in blues and folk influences for a beautifully bastardized version of both genres. 

The set kicks off with “Florida,” a brooding, Bukowski-worthy tale of the darker side of the Sunshine state, filled with hookers, “bum wine,” and abusive boyfriends. “I promise you my teeth, if you promise me your hand and I’m going to give you the most beautiful funeral that I possibly can,” he sings plaintively in a song that manages to be both depressing and uniquely beautiful. In “God’s Country,” one of the strongest songs on the record, Dollbaum’s nonchalant vocal deliver comes off as charming and hard to resist. Not every track on Wellswood is as effective though; his falsetto on “All Is Well,” for example, is too distracting. The album ends on the sparse “Break Your Bones,” about a protagonist – quite possibly the same one for the opening track “Florida” – fresh out of jail, with no prospects and just trying to leave town. It’s a fitting cap to a melancholy, but surprisingly enjoyable and certainly unforgettable debut.  

A carpenter by trade, Dollbaum also hold a Masters in Poetry, which is clearly evident when you pay attention to how impressively structured his lyrics are here. He manages to say so much while still being conservative with his verses, focusing on the right words. The album was recorded across several sessions during the pandemic, in an old New Orleans hotel suite converted into a recording studio. The loneliness of forced isolation can be heard throughout this haunting album, coming off organically.  

While the term singer-songwriter inevitably brings to mind folks like James Taylor and Jackson Browne, Dollbaum breathes fresh life into the genre, offering complex and complicated story songs that serve his debut perfectly.

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