Robo Jack 2023
Can you hear the roar of oceans from a bunch of conches on your shelf? Ask this sweet-voiced New Hampshirite.
A mere sixty-six miles separate Plymouth and Portsmouth, yet while there’s a big differences between the two settlements situated within the same state – one a rural town, the other a seaport city – songs which the former place’s resident Jim Tyrell has been delivering for years are possessed with the breeziness of the later area… or at least that’s what the listener’s impression might be. This – and the feeling that the pieces comprised on “Box Of Shells” were born on the road, when the musician, glancing from his windshield, observed the route’s details to form little travelogues from. Still, unlike its predecessors, this album’s tracks, written over two decades, cover more temporal territory and, thus, don’t invoke any particular locale, rendering the whole attractively relatable. “I am a man of contradictions. Of bright ideas and silly dreams,” intones the veteran in “Try Me” – and who isn’t?
Whereas it’s easy to tag most of this record as Americana – cuts like the nigh on orchestral epic “A Heady Quest” which reveals a genuine depth of Jim’s writing, and the nostalgia-tinged, almost-spoken opener “The Joke” suggest just the genre, in spite of the composer’s rhythm-and-blues organ going for a solo – there’s a lot of English pop influence emerging here and there – not of New England kind of village green, of course, as the poetic “Porcupine” – acoustically driven and sprinkled with piano to ram the “No sword is quite as mighty as the quill” lines home – and the infectious “What To Say And How To Say It” – an odd ode to a writer’s block – demonstrate with a flourish. And if “Personal Space” playfully evaporates into the ether, and “Crack In The Wall” projects sweet pining, a “Fixing A Hole”-type psychedelia, seeping into the number’s elegiac flow on the wave of Tyrell’s guitar to soar even higher on “Was Gonna” from Glenn Case’s repertoire, before “Closing Day” wraps up the trip by promising a new adventure.
However, Tyrell’s not in a hurry to get to what he’s referring a few times as “wonderland”: “I’ve already won in the race for personal space,” Jim is singing on “Box Of Shells” – and one should rest assured his wonderland will wait at the exact point of “wandering” turning into “wondering why” to leave this wide-eyed artist restless enough to want more of his music out.