Tom Wilson,
On the Radio
(self-produced, 2001)

Even from the cover photo, you can tell what Tom Wilson's latest CD On the Radio is going to be like. It's engaging, professional, accessible and friendly. A bit understated, a bit on the conservative side, but likeable just the same. This appealing country-folk album deserves to be on the radio for its easygoing charm.

An experienced songwriter and performer known for his work with bluegrass group Jerusalem Ridge, Tom Wilson has been on the music scene for awhile but shows no sign of weariness or jaded spirit. In fact, his songs have a youthful and optimistic quality about them. Never edgy or ironic, Wilson's music will appeal to people who like their country songs traditional, straight-up and singable.

In "On the Radio" he pays tribute to his idols, "a few good friends ridin' shotgun wherever I go ... Waylon and Willie keepin' me company on the radio." In "Joie de Vivre" he tells the story of a man whose sweetheart wants him to learn to dance. "I'm rhythmically challenged like you would not believe, but she's all hot cause I've got no joie de vivre." "The Rose of Donnally's Hollow" is a tribute to his mother and "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" is a parent's reassurance to a child. The album also contains two simple and lovely love songs: "Of All the Mistakes" (co-written with Ian MacDonald) and "I've Got All the Love You Need" (with David Mosher).

These life-affirming songs and many more (10 tracks total) are framed in tasteful, generally upbeat arrangements featuring Wilson on vocals and acoustic guitar, Phil Hall on bass, Andrzej Ryszka on drums, John Patania and Gary Koliger on lead guitars, LeRoy Mack on dobro, Byron Myhre on fiddle and Bill Lopushinsky on mandolin. Wilson produced the project, which was recorded at Rocky Mountain Recording Studios in Calgary. A well-balanced album, it has a clean and professional sound that is indeed radio-friendly.

In general, the melodies are simple and middle-of-the-road. The songs are always solidly professional though perhaps a bit cautious. If I had a suggestion, it would be to take a few more risks with the songwriting in an effort to develop a more personal and identifiable style. That said, On The Radio is an enjoyable recording from Tom Wilson, a warm and personable performer who knows a good song when he writes one.

[ by Joy McKay ]
Rambles: 30 March 2002