In my reviews, I typically do not pit performer against performer. But allow me this indulgence: Tom Savage is who Colter Wall listeners should be listening to.
Wall comes off as a privileged youth aping legitimacy; Savage presents with an aura of unpretentious, wayfaring minstrel, ‘a country boy not sure what to do.’ Out of necessity, he became a singer-songwriter.
Guitar-rich, Great Beyond is a robust collection of diverse songs.
Performing solo with only his guitar as accompaniment, Savage has no choice but to take charge, laying out his soul, heart, and well-earned perspiration on each of these ten original songs. “Slow Learner” is a weighty country-blues with sufficient slide guitar to prove attractive, “I Wasn’t Meant to Be Alone” is a sweeping guitar assault.
The album’s lead track, “Great Beyond” has a sweeping, cinematic quality reminiscent of the Texas songwriter tradition (Crowell, Van Zandt, Carroll, and such). “Lunatic Baby” has a bit of Sturgill Simpson hiding within darkness (“My daddy got the chair, my mama found religion, I found the keys to his pickup—an ’89 Ford, and rode down the interstate, laid waste to all that I saw…”), “Dirty Mind” is emotionally yearning, where “Keep Movin’ On” is all groove and rhyme. “Someone Knows Where I Am” goes deeper, while “(Too Much Time) Wasting My Time With You” is unequivocally liberating.
For context, I could see and hear Savage holding his own (and more) on a festival sessions stage with the likes of Fervor Coulee faves Darden Smith, Reed Foehl, and Lynn Jackson. Sounding like he is performing within an intimate, house concert setting, Great Beyond is an impressive presentation of Tom Savage unadorned.
If you like Gurf Morlix, you’ll appreciate Tom Savage.