North Dakota Impressions, Tom Brosseau’s new album, is the 3rd of a trilogy to visit life from a local perspective, taking the listener on a journey begun with Grass Punks (2014) and Perfect Abandon (2015), through time that doesn’t clip along uniformly on some common interstate but treads at its own pace on a rural route. More glances, more investigations and introspections, more light, more dark. Memories, imaginings, longings for a place, a home. Produced by Sean Watkins in Silverlake and Highland Park, Los Angeles, North Dakota Impressions is a hopeful album.
Tom Brosseau on North Dakota Impressions:
“Painter Emily Lunde was the impetus for me to want to become a writer. She colorfully painted everyday scenes of Scandinavian-American settlements in early 20th century Minnesota and North Dakota. She was called a memory painter, because she documented her own memories as well as a collective memory of life of those times. She told the story of a culture and that’s a special thing. Her most famous were her country store paintings, for which she received so many requests that she’d paint five at a time.
“I have learned to do something I love doing and keep on repeating it. This trilogy is a memory painting. Maybe all of my work, this thing I love to do and to repeat, are all memory paintings in a way. Home, loss of love, wonderment about another world. These are threads that weave together Grass Punks, Perfect Abandon, and North Dakota Impressions.
“My sense of home is probably the dearest thing I hold. I work to preserve it. I go back into my memories and dreams of where I grew up and I explore, not as a detective but a cartographer. Noting each item and each room I am able to keep everything alive, and when everything is alive it is glorious. So daily I roam through any place or structure I’ve ever been. I visit with people that have long since been dead. I sit in a park with my favorite weather.
“I have got to believe that at some point someone is going to be listening to my music. This is what compels me to continue to tell the story. And when I hear that people listen to my music it makes me hopeful. Think of North Dakota Impressions as the third and final wing of a newer building set off a ways from the old part of the museum. There’s plenty of space here to move about, the light is always just how you want it to be, look and you will find that the dioramas have shifted ever so slightly in their arrangement each time you pass by.
“‘Fit To Be Tied’ is an original composition of mine from the 1990s and is in a way the starting point for this new album. Fit to be tied is an English phrase that I heard growing up, uttered only in times when emotions are just so confounded. So confounded that those around you might do well to tie you up to keep you from exploding. For me, this phrase brought to mind a thing that you couldn’t hold on to or not meant to last, like the blossoms of an apple tree, and you always want one more day of the delightful apple blossoms.
“More recently I revisited this song while passing a little time in a Boise, Idaho hotel room. Having not played it in such a while reminded me of all the dreams I had had when I was a teenager about being a performer on stage, dreams that I had forgotten about along the way. Bringing this song back resurrected a voice in me that had been overlooked by wanting to just keep on going with my songwriting and not look back. I had not noticed for so long that I was not calling on the kid in the corner with his hand held up high. When I called on him his answer was the world is still a wide and unknown beautiful place, full of goodwill and good people, and you can still make it if you try.”