An Evening with Tom Brosseau, North Dakota Troubadour

I almost didn’t make it out to hear Tom Brosseau play at Club Passim tonight. Elaine emailed me from CA a couple of days ago, urging me to go, but when I got home from work the humidity wrestled me to the ground and pinned me. The power was out when I walked in the door, and I was no match for the heat that had settled in. I walked around in a daze, trying to muster the energy to make a decision, any kind of decision. I finally made my way to the PC Cafe, thinking I would at least get out of the heat and get some work done. But once there, I felt that hearing a folk singer from North Dakota was too good an opportunity to pass up, and I was soon on my bike heading to Cambridge.

As usual, once I got to Passim I knew I made the right choice.  Tom’s voice and style made me think of first of Jolie Holland, then Johny Cash and Woody Guthry, then finally a bit of Jeff Buckley. I quickly warmed to his unassuming demeanor, his self-deprecating humor. And soon I was moved by songs of about North Dakota, of wandering, of missing places, of lost love, of the struggles of ordinary people.

Tonight I needed someone to sing about where I’m from. As Boston changes around me and old feelings of dislocation seem to be returning, maybe I depend more on external reference points to get my bearings. I smelled North Dakota in the grass in front of the Kennedy School and in the fields near Harvard Stadium as I biked home.

Thanks, Tom.

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