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Tom House

Til You've Seen Mine – 2000 (Ceili Music)

Reviewed by Dan Williams

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CDs by Tom House

Tom House is an original - an itinerant singer/songwriter steeped hard in beatnik poetics and the verities of the back-porch blues. On two overlooked albums on Checkered Past, he's mined a deviant strain of Americana - the kind of loose and rollicking skree that critic Greil Marcus has lovingly namechecked as "The old, weird America." Here, House again manages the neat trick of sounding old-timey yet utterly contemporary.

The North Carolina-born/Nashville-based House is a published poet, and his songs unfold with a pronounced literary sensibility. At their best, his narratives engage with the ease of a well-crafted short story. There are the unrepentant boozers of "Long Hard Drinking" and "Elmer Smith," and the small-town drifters of "The Black Sheep" and "The Malbourne Hotel." "Bull City Blues" gallops like an outtake from a lost Steve Earle/Pogues session. And "Down In The Hole" - a captivating blues - offers this assessment of country radio: "It could have been Faith/It could have been Tim/It could have been Garth or Trisha or any of them/It's just the one same song/Over and over, all night long."

Amen to that, and "Mine" is the rare album that seems truly sui generis. Amid a cookie-cutter Music Row culture, House occupies the position of sounding like absolutely no one else.