Independent release, 2007
REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/01/2007
There don't seem to be many Americana artists around anymore, combining folk and light country with pop and rock. As a fan of Ray Charles and Elvis who learned his songwriting from the Beatles, Greg Thelen is a good candidate to try his hand at the genre.
The beauty of the music is its unpredictability, which is unexpected on a disc that so obviously wears its influences on its sleeve. Thelen is interested in songwriting first -- the cover art is the artist sitting on a roof hugging his guitar and grinning -- and in popularity second, so nothing here is calculated. There are Beatles influences on "Guys Who Think They're Special" and "Pump the American Dream" adds a cool early Stones vibe to lyrics about a rather touchy subject.
Being Americana, the music sometimes turns into obvious front-porch folk, like "Letter In My Back Pocket," which sports a Muddy Waters-inspired blues riff, or the simple acoustic "Girl Out Island Road." The biggest surprise is "Boulders On The Hill," a flat-out electronic gospel tune about those sort of people who think they know what's best for everyone else. Although Thelen's voice is thin and relegated to the background, the funky gospel riff carries the song and the soulful saxophone solo carries it home.
What Thelen manages to pull off is a complete absence of pretension. Unlike other calculated singer-songwriters, the type who know the songs they write will get them laid, Thelen is happy just to write and sing. This means it may never transcend folk festival or bar band status, but sometimes that's fine, because one could easily see more popular artists covering these songs (especially the Springsteen-inspired "Glory Road," which uses American images and piano to attempt a patriotic heartland song. It's pretty good).
For this critic, more of the electric songs and less of the folksy acoustic would have made this a far better album, but taking Enough Thunder on its own rootsy terms will result in a fun listen from a guy who just wants to play, who can even make the finger-picking blues of "A Little Extra Time" sound like fun. Not great, but not a bad way to spend 40 minutes.