This is a singer/songwriter’s album. The songwriter in question is almost entirely Diane Forsyth, with a bit of help here and there. Town Hall Brawl is her band, and it consists of Don Forsyth on electric and slide guitar, Billy Reed on keys, Marty Vadalabene on drums, and Diane herself on vocals and bass.
I say this is a singer/songwriter’s album because that’s a wide a category as is available to me. I don’t want to put this CD (or this band) into a bag like “Blues” (although they can get real bluesy), or “Alt-Country” (although some tunes have a strong country flavor) or even that catch-all, “Americana.” These folks play Diane’s songs in a way that transcends categories. Each song is an individual piece, and this bunch of veteran musicians has enough skill and experience to make them come individually alive. The level of craftsmanship here brings The Band to mind, or some of Dylan’s latter day efforts, “Love and Theft” perhaps, or “Modern Times.”
Diane's voice and delivery make me feel right at home, with a warm, familiar feeling like we’re sitting on the steps of her front porch talking about life. Her songs are all about life – days gone by, regrets, anger, embarrassment, hard work for low pay, the need to just pull it together and keep on keepin’ on. Except for Billy Reed’s lilting instrumental tune, “Daytrip to Havana,” this isn’t a particularly cheerful album. But it’s the kind of album that’s likely to make a person feel better – like a good long conversation with a friend. I’d be hard pressed to pick out favorites from this set – the concurrent variety and consistency of material here is one of the album’s strong points, if that makes any sense.
The music itself is fine. Don Forsyth is an excellent, creative guitarist, and I particularly liked his intense slide work. Billy Reed is great throughout – he’s played with everyone in town, and his versatility shows on this recording. He’s the central support for many of the songs, creating an underlying fabric that holds the songs together. Marty’s crackling drums are just right, and Diane’s simple and solid bass works well for the songs she writes and sings. Seattle legend Conrad Uno was at the board for this recording, and the overall sound and production is up to his internationally renowned standards.
The CD design and packaging of this CD is unusually good for a local release, with cool artwork by Jenica Cruz and a full lyric booklet. A first class effort all around! Cheers for Town Hall Brawl!
By Mark "Tall Cool One" Dalton