Thomas Charlie Pedersen – Second Hand War
Thomas Charlie Pedersen, on his first solo album Second Hand War, cannot be accused of attempting to remake the wheel. Instead, he relies on traditional folk music forms and a solid approach in the singer/songwriter vein to convey his deeply reflective, witheringly honest, and unflinching lyrical narratives. Much of his lyrical point of view is first person, but don’t let that suggest this is solely some exercise in self-pity or self-punishment. Pedersen writes just as convincingly about other characters in his song as he does about himself or his fictional narrators. The music is lean, cut down to the bone, and the stripped back setting allows a chance for Pedersen’s voice and words to shine as never before. The result is a fourteen song collection where no two songs sound exactly alike and everything beats with a massive, all-encompassing heart. Second Hand War is real music made by real people for real people.
The album’s songwriting can be divided into four distinctive camps. The first camp opens Second Hand War. “High Dust Devils” and “Appreciation Hymn” are folk songs with differing personalities. The first is much more straight ahead affair, strummed chords and a harmonica accompaniment, while Pedersen delivers a fine, if a bit prosaic, lyric. The second of the two, “Appreciation Hymn”, finds him framing his folk music chops in a much more lyrical, melodic vein than the opener. The six minute plus “Kill With Kindness” is lyrically advanced and offers listeners a memorable climax for the album. The second group of songs are focused on the mandolin/ “I For One”, “For You”, and the closer “Good Ride” are sonic bright spots on an album that spends a significant amount of time trading in beautifully wrought melancholy. Of the three, the first is the most laid back. He’s content to fashion a more intricate mandolin and vocal melody here than he is in the following two. “Good Ride” closes Second Hand War in a deeply satisfying way because it plays like such a strong antithesis to what’s come before, particularly on the album’s second half.
The third camp of songs consists of brief instrumental pieces. Normally, such short works are filler material a composer embraces to shore up his or her lack of finished material. These songs are not that at all on Second Hand War. Instead, they serve as atmospheric mood pieces that give some substantive connective tissue between works and stand alone as ingenious artistic concoctions in their own right. The final group, Pedersen’s piano centered works, is headed by the tracks “Letter from the Dead” and “Uneasy Feeling”. These two songs show the diversity of his approach on the keys and are, by the far, the clearest examples of his singer/songwriter ethos at work. Second Hand War has a breathtaking fullness to its artistic vision that will earn it countless admirers. Regardless of his birthplace, Pedersen is one of the finest songwriters working today and hits all of his marks on this new release.
9 out of 10 stars.