Buffalo Tom – Three Easy Pieces

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 4)

Ah, the comeback album. I wouldn’t call this a reunion album – I’m not sure Buffalo Tom ever broke up. Comeback seems more appropriate, both because Three Easy Pieces arrived nine years after Smitten, and because Smitten was not good and Pieces rises to the heights of Sleepy Eyed. So . . . comeback. They’ve released a couple more since this, and they’re okay, but this is the best of the second phase of the band.

What I Think of This Album

The group harmonies of “Bad Phone Call” come across like a clarion call, announcing the band is back and united in purpose and spirit. After the unsuccessful experiments of Smitten – the problem with which was that it was a bore – the band retrenches a bit here and offers up a classic Buffalo Tom sound much in line with Sleepy Eyed.

Indeed, the title track is all distorted guitar, feedback, and rolling toms, with a familiar Bill Janovitz vocal and Chris Colbourn backing him up as before. The thrumming “You’ll Never Catch Him” has some excellent harmony vocals and a cinematic feel overall. The past comes calling on the rollicking “Bottom of the Rain,” which sounds like the work of a much younger Buffalo Tom. There is some very cool guitar on ballad “Lost Downtown.”

Colbourn’s “Renovating” boasts Mission of Burma’s Clint Conley on background vocals, some great drumming by Tom Maginnis, and an uncredited harmonica, as well as some mystifyingly religious lyrics. Janovitz responds with the even-better “Good Girl,” with an excellent vocal, strong melody, and fantastic backing harmony vocals. They try something new (including Janovitz on trumpet) on boomy “Pendleton” – another Colbourn number – but it never earns its dramatic presentation. That said, the celtic trappings of “Gravity” hit the spot.

“September Shirt” is another quality rocker. “CC and Callas” is pretty cool, with lyrical nods to Maria Callas and I can only hope that the CC refers to the dude from Poison, but it is probably Chris Colbourn. Closing ballad “Thrown” has some pedal steel and is decent autumnal tune that veers towards raucousness as it ends, and then adds random recorded sounds afterwards.

The Best Thing About This Album

“Three Easy Pieces,” in part because the title seems autobiographical and that’s just sweet, but “Bottom of the Rain,” “Good Girl,” and “September Shirt” are strong contenders.

Release Date

July, 2007

The Cover Art

I love this cover. It’s triumphant – the subtle radiating white lines are cool touch – and has the faded, grainy look of old film stock or a revolutionary poster.

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