Street Sounds: From Vernon to London and back

Former Vernon rock/reggae/calypso-pop ambassador with Samsara, singer/songwriter Thomas Thomas releases solo album.

Thomas Thomas

Thomas Thomas

The former Vernon rock/reggae/calypso-pop ambassador with Samsara, singer/songwriter Thomas Thomas now resides in London, England.

He occasionally ventures back to B.C. for musical business and his last visit here completed a recording he began in England, his first solo record, Broke the Spell.

As Thomas’ easy worldview has seen movement so has his music made a shift to evocative song writing.  His mellow voice is detailed in this consistent and clean recording that’s notable for its depth and tasteful arrangement.

Those qualities are partnered with Thomas’ music, first heard here on the song, Can’t Get You. The ringing atmospheric music moves through a dreamy track with bittersweet lyrics: (“When we were children the games we played taught us to hide/In a world unforgiving our hopes, our dreams died.”)

His music is direct and personal but doesn’t cross any lines by being overly revealing — it’s a reflective zone. This honesty and simplicity are hallmarks of Thomas’ songcraft.

Thomas’ early influences shine through on About You, a deep song that recalls John Lennon’s post Plastic Ono Band solo material. The stark vocal and whisper of reverb rest on rich acoustics: slide and guitar and a string section that’s direct and lush. The song is emotionally bare and brings on the nostalgic mood of a bygone love story.

This music marks a stripped down show telling of Thomas’ material. The songs are spacious, honest and simple with Thomas’ vocal and lyrics bringing an understated conviction to them.

Kindred spirits were found in the production team. Guitarist Andy Strange produced the first three songs and bassist Jacob Chatterton took care of the rest, along with Thomas. These achieve a luminous vibe early on and later mark the shift to thick beats and funky flourishes. The kept-in-check musical taste of the early acoustic tracks is a characteristic of the whole recording.

The confidence and straight emotional reach of Thomas’ song craft has also received a shot in the arm from his dialogue and collaboration with former Yes vocalist Jon Anderson. The two are changing ideas and arrangements for future use – look out!

A bright light on Broke the Spell is This Time – a thoughtful theme that’s reminiscent of some of Paul Simon’s mid-period work: expansive songwriting that uplifts.

The clarity and positive world view that marks the songwriting on the album is reinforced by the imagery in Over and For You — tracks that conjure a rainforest mirage and a gentle Caribbean spirit.

Afterword, his mellow voice is brought into a strong niche on a hidden track that has the vibe of a peaceful, late afternoon lullaby, reflecting on songs full of musical journeys.

Dean Gordon-Smith is the Morning Star’s CD reviewer. His column, Street Sounds, appears every Friday.