Album Review : TJ Doyle's 'On the Horizon'
This is TJ Doyle’s 2nd album, the followup to his 2009 debut ” the One True Thing” . He has certainly nailed the fragile wavering of Neil Young’s reedy tenor. The layering of gospel like backing vocals and blues guitar add a different dimension, you might associate with someone like Eric Clapton, more than Neil Young’s typically more stripped down approach. The backing band is as rough around the edges like Crazy Horse, which later went on to inspire Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vedder as grunge rose in the 90s. There is a more somber western feel to “Cold Rain” that brings to mind both the Eagles and Bad Company. Doyle’s voice uses more flexible pop intervals than Young, the delicate cracks are more stylistic accents than like Young, whose pleading style was on the edge of his excesses. The guitar solo fires out from the song like something an 80’s arena rock power ballad.
The guitar solos are blues based but very clean, reminding me more of John Mayer’s playing style, who is proficient but not rock.His song writing is Doyle’s strong point, “Rosemary’s Wishes” might not have the same feeling that infuses “Cortez the Killer” , but it is a very concise ballad, with more in common with David Gilmore post- 80s Pink Floyd. The marginally more upbeat “Something for You” glides along a middle of the road rock feel, but provides the perfect backdrop for Doyle’s lyrics. There is a slightly more modern rock element to “Living in Our Dream”, but by and large Doyle remains blissfully deaf to the current radio trends. Instead he lives in a time when even what as once called adult contemporary rock had musicianship to it. By today’s standards this sound might even be thought of as country, especially on “Everything”, since today’s country artists are just as influenced by the Eagles and Jimmy Buffet as they are Hank and Willie.
The bass takes a prominent role to help drive the verses of “Human”. The smooth James Taylor like grace that coats his melodies continues to be the song’s focus. The chorus continue to reach for big soaring choruses. The more typical romantic themes crop up on “Everything” . The pristine guitar leads in “Favorite Places”. Lyrically he goes for more of a reflection on how we are treating mother earth. He backs off again another ballad. It has the big arena rock chorus. When he pulls out the acoustic guitar for the closing “On the Horizon” it is a little more authentic to what comes to mind as far as Neil Young goes. The chorus is more polished than where the southern man normally goes.
His song writing is refreshingly honest so it is surprising he is coming from the plastic sheen of the L.A. scene. The album had a lot of time , money and attention to detail put into it as it was recorded at Studio City Sound with the talents of Grammy award winning engineer Tom Weir at the helm, so it sounds impeccable one of the best guitar tones your are going to hear this year , if you are a tone junkie, then take note. It might owe a lot to the West Coast rock of the 70s, but it is lyrically relevant and a good relaxing listen. The album comes out on April 8th so keep your ears out for it and in the mean time check out the video for “Everything ” below.