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Review: Tom Brosseau, 'Perfect Abandon'

Perfect Abandon
Courtesy of the artist
Perfect Abandon

"They call me the hard luck boy," Tom Brosseau says at the top of his enchanting new album, later adding, "It all happened a very long time ago, when I was just a boy. My mother took me on what she called 'a little shopping trip' four or five states away, to a city she'd never been to before." In just that one song, in just four minutes, the North Dakota singer and storyteller tells a heartbreaking tale that hasn't left me since I first heard it.

Brosseau has been recording stories of wonder and mystery since the start of this century. His music has the spirit of church to it; of long-ago traditions and the Great American Songbook. His voice is timeless, and at times genderless. But what's really special about Perfect Abandon is the arrangements and how these songs are captured.

Working with John Parish, a singer-songwriter and collaborator for the likes of PJ Harvey, Brosseau works to capture this music around a single microphone. Just a two-piece drum kit, an upright bass, and acoustic and Stratocaster guitars get placed meticulously around that one mic, with no mixing. The result is as close to having Tom Brosseau in your living room as possible. With these wonderfully honest stories, the fit is perfect. So close your eyes and listen.

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In 1988, a determined Bob Boilen started showing up on NPR's doorstep every day, looking for a way to contribute his skills in music and broadcasting to the network. His persistence paid off, and within a few weeks he was hired, on a temporary basis, to work for All Things Considered. Less than a year later, Boilen was directing the show and continued to do so for the next 18 years.