Music Reviews
These Friends of Mine

Rosie Thomas These Friends of Mine

(Nettwerk) Buy it from Insound Rating - 8/10

Rosie Thomas came to our attention lending mellifluous backing vocals to Damien Jurado and Sufjan Stevens releases. And despite garnering praise for her first two solo albums, word of her ability with a charming melody and well-crafted, bittersweet lyrics has been slow to spread.

Her earlier solo efforts, while literate and well conceived have always suffered from over production and have left me cold, the arrangements and production being impersonal an self-aware. These Friends of Mine, is a delightfully ramshackle affair, rough and ready and all the more warming and accessible for it. The friends of the title - including Stevens, Jurado, and Denison Witmer - can be heard counting songs in, or bouncing up and down on a bed, laughing in the middle of tracks, and improvising the songs as they are recorded seconds after being written.

The album is a paean to New York in which Thomas reimagines the Big Apple as a fairytale city. Deserted Brooklyn streets in a rosy twilight frame the statue of liberty and provide a backdrop to love songs and odes to Thomas' west-coast home. New York becomes a womb from which this innocent baby of an album is born.

Thomas' lyrics bring even the city pavements to life, conjuring the breeze playing with the leaves on tree-lined avenues. Along with vivid imagery, there is a tangible sense of mood. The unfocused longing on Kite Song - "Oh tie me to the end of a kite so I can go on I can go on with my life and every time the wind blows stronger I will feel my spirit rise, I just want to go away from here" - resonates long after the song is over. This skill with words, wry observation, and the understated expression in her clear, emotive voice bring to mind one of the finest of modern singer-songwriters, Shawn Colvin.

Thomas has such a knack for describing moods of home and companionship that the original songs seem like instant old friends, and a couple of well chosen covers enhance this feeling of familiarity. REM's The One I Love is given extra tenderness and Thomas' take on Christine McVie's Songbird is as loving as a song possibly can be.

A mature, assured, and beautiful album, These Friends of Mine is from the outset to the closing title track - a big thank you to all who helped on the album - one big hug. The overall feeling is of a dusty cassette that you and some old friends recorded a long time ago during that golden life-changing summer... in an alternative world in which you and your friends are amazing singers and songwriters of course.