Jonah Tolchin’s Clover Lane opens with a hellacious harmonica and a furious footstomp. Right from the start it’s clear that this isn’t just a terrific local record; it’s a polished, propulsive record with enough quality and energy to take Tolchin places.
Based in Rhode Island and no stranger to the stage, Tolchin’s name has been buzzing for a few years now. His honest lyricism and wizened voice slid in almost too well with fellow Ocean Staters like Deer Tick and the Low Anthem. But as those bands took departures in different directions, Tolchin has chosen to simply take his act to another level and left town to do it.
The record was produced by Marvin Etzioni, whose production credits include Peter Case, and whose professional credits include founding Lone Justice. And Marvin “The Mandolin Man” appears to have a bit of Midas in him, as it is instantaneously obvious it is expertly produced. It seems to accurately capture the energy of the environment. Put simply, the record sounds terrific.
Recorded in Nashville, Tenn., the album’s second track is aided by sometimes-Tennessean John McCauley of Deer Tick. In addition to McCauley’s deft harmonies, there is some serious playing by seriously skilled musicians. Eamon McClaughlin lends some frenzied fiddle work, while Chris Scrugg’s steel guitar sets the thing on fire.
Not to say the album is without variety. “Diamond Mind” downshifts to showcase Tolchin’s tender voice and thoughtful lyrics. “I was looking up at the sky again / I fell into the sky. Looking for an answer, but I found me a question why,” he layers atop a lovely, Low Anthem-esque chorus.
“Hey Baby Blues” is a classically cool come-on with a sultry baritone sax. “Hybrid Automo” is a funky fusion that definitely lands on the pro-electric side of the energy debate. In lesser hands, these may be cause for concern, but the risky moves pay off well.
The album ends quietly with “I’ll Be Gone”, a plaintive rejoinder to the temporary nature of it all. “I’m leaving in the morning, and then I’ll be gone,” he sings. Fans who want to see Tolchin in person should do so soon, because he may be gone for bigger and brighter stages, and deservedly so. Might as well enjoy the trip. Thankfully Clover Lane is one hell of a ride.
Words by Brian Hodge of Visible Voice