Startling. That's what first comes to mind when introduced to the Nightwatchman. Tom Morello is the rapid-fire-riffing, space-sound-creating lead guitarist for Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave right? Well, when he's not a metal revolutionary (in Rage) or flailing under Chris Cornell's plodding vocals (in Audioslave), he is also a folk singing revolutionary called the Nightwatchman.
I caught the Nightwatchman's set in the basement of Stubb's Bar-B-Q back in March while I was in Austin for South By Southwest, and I for one was impressed.
Thought hard about this next line.
Pretty sure it's true.
If you take a step toward freedom it'll take two steps toward you
It was such an intimate setting and it lent itself very well to Tom accompanied only by his nylon string "Whatever It Takes" guitar and a harmonica. Tom has an immediately identifiable guitar style and this comes through even on an acoustic. His vocals make me think of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen.
This juxtoposition seems to throw many for a loop. No, Tom is not a incredible finger picker, and his version of folk doesn't sound like Peter, Paul and Mary or Joan Baez. Breezy and beautiful it ain't. The album has an immediacy to it. Like any moment storm troopers could bust in and haul us away for speaking our mind. I feel hot and dusty just listening to it.
Yeah, this is wierd. Tom may not find tremendous success as an acoustic folk/protest singer, but he's got me as a fan, I'm glad I saw him live and I'm glad I bought this album. Keep fighting Tom.
The highlights for me include "Maximum Firepower," "Flesh Shapes The Day," and "House Gone Up In Flames."