Balderdash

Tom Hambridge

Artemis Records, 2000

http://hambridgetunes.com

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/30/2001

Tom Hambridge is a songwriter whose style feels like someone you know, but is a person whose name you wouldn't recognize.

That is, you wouldn't recognize him if you weren't familiar with the late Roy Buchannan, with whom Hambridge worked up until Buchannan's tragic death. You wouldn't recognize him if you hadn't discovered Susan Tedeschi and her CD Just Won't Burn. Hambridge, in fact, is the gem waiting to be discovered. With his major label solo debut (and second solo effort overall) Balderdash, the waiting may soon be over for Hambridge.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Although the music on this CD is bluesy, it would be incorrect to call the CD a blues disc, or to call Hambridge a blues musician. The term "roots rock" seems to fit better, even if the semantics of the genre are still debated. The fact is, the drummer/vocalist takes all of the musical influences he's been exposed to over the years and rolls them up into one neat little package.

The end result, admittedly, does take a little time to get used to. Tracks like "Gillian" and "Strong Enough" are decent, but they don't seem like they can go the extra mile to bring the listener into Hambridge's camp. "Opposites Attract," the first of two duets with Tedeschi, fizzles, most likely because the same concept was done over a decade ago by Paula Abdul. If you remember Abdul's brief career in the spotlight, don't be surprised if you listen to Hambridge's composition and find yourself wondering if the two tracks are the same. (Save yourself the time; they aren't.)

Despite the slow start to Balderdash, Hambridge quickly redeems himself, and spends the rest of the CD erasing any doubts the listener may have had. "Boneyard" is a bluesy rocker that has just the right mixture of city grit and southern twang to make it a possible hit. Other tracks, such as "Gas," "Rachel Fay," "Big & Empty" and "Highway" shine in a similar light, proving to the listener that Hambridge is one of the best-kept secrets from the Boston area. Hambridge even pays tribute to the often-assumed-to-be-dead form of music media known as the record, with the song "12 Inches".

Although it takes time for Hambridge to get the motor warmed up on Balderdash, there's more than ample proof here to suggest that he could be the next force in album-oriented rock... and there's plenty to make me think that we still haven't heard the best that Hambridge can offer. Although he's a veteran of the music scene, Balderdash is an impressive big-league welcome for Hambridge, and will undoubtedly be just the first thing we hear from him over the next few years... which is absolutely fine.

Rating: B+

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© 2001 Christopher Thelen 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 Artemis Records, and is used for informational purposes only.