The Alphabet Of Hurricanes
[Rating: 3.5 stars]
The mark of a songwriter is not a clever line of melodies or a catchy collection of hooks, but something that runs a little deeper – the ability to tell a story. Tom McRae is a songwriter, and his latest album, The Alphabet of Hurricanes, is not a collection of songs but one of stories. McRae is fortunate to have not only a gift for words but also considerable musical ability, playing mandolin, banjo and guitar, among other instruments, on the album. His knack for lyrics shows to be stronger than his for instrumentation, however, which at times creates inconsistency between music and story.
That being said, the album has its highs and lows, often immediately following one another– the soaring harmonies of “Please” juxtaposed with the slow repetition of “Out of the Walls” cause the latter to drag. When music does meet message, however, like the soft, subtle strumming accompanying McRae’s vocals on opener “I Still Love You,” the results are nothing short of magic. Despite McRae being a native Brit, the album’s standout track is “American Spirit,” a slow-building epic about a girl who “strikes up an American Spirit and a conversation about nothing.”
This is one of those good albums that could have been great. McRae’s lyrics read like poetry off the page, and it is through his words that he really shines. With the right accompaniment next time around, McRae could have an album that stands on its own, rather than on the individual stories that make it.