The Bottle Of Wine EP

Thomas Cunningham

Emerald City Entertainment, 2003

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


Young blond surfer-ish dude strums his acoustic down by the oceanside. The girls sway around the firepit as the waves crash, a bottle of wine is passed and the spirit of every beachfront, hippiefied artiste from Jack Kerouac to Jack Johnson is invoked.

Based on the cover art to The Bottle Of Wine EP, it would be easy to dismiss Thomas Cunningham as a caricature. Easy, and wrong.

Yes, Cunningham's instrument of choice is the acoustic guitar, and his vocals in places assume a laconic fireside manner. But the instrumentation here ranges from Cunningham's own intricate playing ("The Bottle Of Wine") to tasteful slide ("Sunset On The Boulevard") to some fairly tasty electric work ("Senseless"). Cunningham goes with full-band arrangements on half these songs and a rhythm section on all of them, giving him a fuller, slightly heavier sound than you might anticipate.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The main thing to be learned from this disc, though, is that this kid (he's 19) can write. His songs have almost a rap feel in places as TC catches the flow and breezes through a dense lyric like the title track, rhyming up a storm and constantly pushing the music ahead. (You can feel the Ben Harper influence there - oh yeah, definitely.)

To his credit, Cunningham also hits some strong emotional notes with lyrics, especially on the rather Shawn Mullins-y "Senseless," whose emotionally co-dependent narrator struggles to rescue a lover who doesn't want to be rescued. "She's such a mess / Thought 'all she needs is a little bit of me," sings Cunningham, and it rings as true as his coda, in which the object of his affection goes from screaming "I can't go on!" to "You can't move on!" at him.

"Chemical Monday" is another nice acoustic-and-rhythm piece about addictions and illusions, with nice little lyrical nuggets like "False hopes never die" and "What a day to die / The day I feel most alive," and some nice organ accents toward the end. The closer to this six-track EP, "Sayonara," is a quirky kiss-off to a long-time relationship whose free-association chorus goes "The days have changed / Now everything, there's no flame"… and actually makes sense, in the context of the verses.

I'll confess I also have to root for Cunningham because he's a local No Cal boy, calling Davis his hometown and publishing this disc on Santa Cruz-based Emerald City. I will definitely be catching a show sometime, preferably without a surfboard in sight. For now, you can catch this EP at

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2004 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Emerald City Entertainment, and is used for informational purposes only.