Few performers today are as engaged with their art and social issues, particularly the environment, like Doyle and he has assembled a long serving musical team around him who have extensive CV’s with artists as diverse as Tracy Chapman, Slash’s Snakepit, and the Dave Matthews Band, among others. “Ancient Wind” reflects the intelligence and nuance he brings to his material – despite tackling an often contentious issue, global warming and the fallout from it, Doyle never hectors his listeners, doesn’t come off like some musical Jeremiah on the mount warning of impending doom, or bristle with rage. Instead, he conveys honest and forthright concern from the outset and it comes through in every second of the song’s five and a half minutes and change running time.
The steadiness of the song’s message is one of the song’s greatest elements for me. I cannot say enough about a songwriter willing to take on such an important social issue yet unwilling to step up into some soapbox and wag a figurative hand at his listeners and the world at large. The intelligence guiding “Ancient Wind” and its lyric is a hallmark of Doyle’s music and it has reached another peak with this single. There’s no bloat dragging this lyric down; Doyle never uses two or three words to convey a point when one will do and his focus is apparent throughout the entirety of the track.
His singing deepens the impact of the lyrical message. Doyle takes great care with his phrasing, dragging lines out just enough so they linger in listener’s memory, and invests his vocal with emotion and palpable concern. This isn’t some gimmick for Doyle to garner public attention; you cannot listen to this song and its words and not register his deep and long-standing concern for one of the most important issues facing mankind today. He knows the stakes are impossibly high and the lyrics reflect that urgency in a subtle and artful way.
The band does an exemplary job of surrounding that message with a first class musical presentation. The rhythm section, led by drummer David Raven, grounds the track well and pushes it forward with just enough force, but never too hard. Doyle’s own acoustic guitar playing provides a constant undercurrent for the performance, but his six string partner guitarist Tim Pierce brings a lot to the recording with his ornamental guitar fills during the verses, occasional lead flourishes, and a solo near the track’s end that provides a crowning musical touch for the song as a whole.
TJ Doyle’s “Ancient Wind” is the latest five star track in a career that has few, if any, misses. I usually disdain or dislike songwriting with a social agenda feeling that such concerns often sound dated within a few years as the world moves forward, but global warming isn’t an issue that will date anytime soon and Doyle writes about it in such an artful way that I can’t help but admire what he’s accomplished.
by: Clay Burton