The song structures on A. Tom Collins's new album, Stick and Poke, are mostly built on easily digestible formulas, bluesy designs that feel vaguely familiar and rely on four or five chords. Happily, though, the timeless blues, honky-tonk and funky New Orleans cues give the band the proper space to shine. The real power of this record lies in how frontman Aaron Collins and the rest of the group brilliantly fill in simple musical canvases. Collins's vocals and keyboard solos pop with urgency on "Mambo," the horn lines sparkle in waltz time on "Us," and the rhythm section is simply dazzling on the frenetic "So Good." Even Collins's stark solo piece, "Little Boy," benefits from a careful attention to nuance. That keen attention to detail makes for an album that feels new and familiar at the same time, one that evokes hints of everyone from Tom Waits to Booker T. and the MGs.
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