Thomas Charlie Pedersen – Second Hand War
Few acoustic-based debuts this year will prove as impressive as Thomas Charlie Pedersen’s solo release Second Hand War. The fourteen compositions Pedersen’s prepared for release share a unity of sound and themes that help Second Hand War hang together like an expertly constructed novel or theatrical production might. However, make no mistake, Second Hand War’s thrust is resolutely musical. It isn’t a wordy confessional songwriting extravaganza or stagy, premeditated musical theater. Instead, Pedersen keeps things resolutely stripped down relying on precious little more than guitar, mandolin, and piano to weave his spell. Light strings and harmonica make brief appearances in some songs The production focuses on establishing an intimate tone for listeners and quickly succeeds.
Despite the relatively non-personal nature of the lyrical content, “High Dust Devils” gets the album off to a memorable start. Pedersen establishes his credentials as a lyricist through his deft mingling of the suggestive and specific while his phrasing lends added dramatic credibility to the content and performance alike. “Appreciation Hymn” is a much more lyrical effort musically and his words complement it well. There’s such a positive energy streaming from the song despite its relatively laid back feel that it’s nearly impossible to not rank this track near the top of his efforts here. He develops “Letter from the Dead” in a much more deliberate fashion than the previous songs, concentrating on forming a mood. Pedersen’s phrasing is nuanced and focused on underscoring the mood of the arrangement. The brief instrumental and title track “Second Hand War” serves as a prelude to “Uneasy Feeling”, but the title song has enormous musical merit despite its brevity.
“Uneasy Feeling” is, arguably, the best piano ballad on Second Hand War. It has the classicist swirl of the great singer/songwriter material from the late sixties and seventies, an era Pedersen clearly draws from as a major influence. While little of the album’s lyrical content turns new ground, Pedersen writes with such an idiosyncratic personal flair that it gives the songwriting memorable flavor. Other piano ballads, however, make a deep impact. The following song “Sycamoore Street” is a powerful and moving personal reminiscence firmly grounded in a sense of place. He proves his ability to shift moods without losing any momentum with the next track “For You”. Like the earlier “I For One”, “For You” has an irrepressible Beatles like bounce and effortless charisma sure to win over many listeners. The final major song on the album, “Kill with Kindness”, is by far the most extended treatment Pedersen gives to any song on the release and, while the arrangement might not exhibit the nuance heard in earlier important tracks like “Letter from the Dead”, the lyrical treatment is much more developed here. The album’s last song, “Good Ride”, is cut from the same cloth as earlier songs like “I For One” and “For You”. Pedersen can’t ever suppress his pop and melodic instincts from long and ending the album with this light hearted goodbye is a shrewd decision.
9 out of 10 stars