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Fresh new direction for folk-rock

Thomas Kovacs

Thomas Kovacs - Wisdom from the Spirit
(Machine Records)
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Sept. 30, 2004

Review by Tony Bonyata

Built on a foundation of passionate folk rock, newcomer Thomas Kovacs has tossed the standard singer/songwriter textbook out the window with an enduring full-length debut, entitled Wisdom from the Spirit, that successfully mixes in traces of modern rock, Americana roots music and even a bit of psychedelia.
It seems almost unfathomable that these songs of passion and spirit are performed by someone only 20-years old. Not only does the North Carolina native's deep, resonant voice on the gripping number "The Anchor" and the uplifting majesty that surrounds 'Stand" sound reminiscent of Peter Gabriel in his prime, but the knowing sense of spirituality that graces the lilting "Angel with a Broken Wing" and the title track also further suggests with a world-weariness that there is a much more mature soul brooding in the body of this young man. Kovacs' lively guitar playing - often performed in unique, yet interesting tunings - also perfectly compliments his compelling voice.
While the body of songs and compositions stand strongly on their own, it's the unique production values that truly keep many of these numbers from blending in with similar singer/ songwriter ilk. Recorded earlier this year in Lake Geneva and co-produced by Kovacs, Mike Hoffmann (EIEIO / Willy Porter) and Machine Records owner Chris Buttleman, the trio took many of Kovacs' original compositions and reshaped them into an intriguingly varied package. From the driving rhythm and modern rock approach of "Foundation" to the jaunty country twang that gallops through "Burning Out" to the brief opium-laced instrumental "Pass the Hookah," featuring Kovacs on sitar, this guitarist/singer/songwriter offers a much broader palette than the John Mayers and Dave Matthews do for this genre of music. Having a bit of fun, Kovacs also tosses in a lighthearted cover of The Left Banke's '60s gem "Walk Away Renee," which would do Roger McGuinn and The Byrds proud.
Spiritual without preaching and thought-provoking without pretensions, Wisdom from the Spirit points a bright new direction for folk rock.

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