[20 June 2008]
A prototypically rugged Yorkshireman turned grizzled Cornish beachcomber, Tom Palmer appears every inch the well-traveled, hard-lived salt-of-the-earth man his voice and his songs paint him as: hard to believe he used his first guitar as a cricket bat. He’s gentler on his strings these days, mandecello as well as guitar, ably assisted by Show of Hands pair Phil Beer and Steven Knightley on German fiddle, Cuban Lute and even a “Uke of Chinese origin”, while Jackie Oates contributes viola. The result is a bright, resonant mesh of nylon as unaffected as Palmer’s worldview. Not a man easily given to metaphor, he tackles the nitty gritty of human relations in broad, bear-hearted brush strokes, couched in the melodies of an old school romantic and a lower range as capably guttural as John Martyn. While the swelling lament of “Crazy Dreams”, and Hispanicisms of “Standing Strong”, suggest his strengths lie in the personal rather than the political, a reading of “Borderline”, Ry Cooder’s ahead-of-its-time ode to the Mexican immigrant experience, address both inside six satisfyingly resigned minutes.