From the clandestine swing of “That Spark Will Never Die” to the lurching yet majestic piano melody that supports “Sing (Mom’s Song),” there’s a sense of unfiltered emotionality that accompanies every moment you’re going to come in contact with in the new record Coming Home from John Mark Thomas. Unlike a lot of the other pandemic-era singer/songwriter releases I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing in the past year, Thomas’ latest record isn’t one that utilizes insularity as an aesthetical cornerstone. On the contrary, there’s a rather aggressive outgoingness that I get from these lyrics that’ makes me feel as though this player is looking to reach out to his audience in a way he would have never dreamed of before.
He’s breaking out of his shell and shunning so much of the cold chaotic theme that has become prevalent in even the more balladic hits to come from his genre in recent years, and best of all, we find his sound untethered to any political, social or other cultural movement critics might just as put under the legitimacy microscope. Coming Home goes beyond the collective and focuses on the individual that is who this singer/songwriter has always been away from the microphone, and in using harmony to communicate emotions rather than old fashioned verse/hook interplay alone, Thomas makes it clear he’s not rolling with amateur indie artists at this point in his life.
There’s definitely a really natural feel to every track here, starting with the first song in the EP — the title cut. I’ve never understood why more pastoral players in modern times don’t embrace the easy-going aspect of folk storytelling as opposed to over-conceptualizing as a means of survival (often for no reason other than to fit in with someone else’s artistic design). The string play in “Can’t Give Up” and “Give You the Stars” defines everything from the tone to the tempo of the music, but someone doesn’t steal any of the efficiently-proportioned thunder away from Thomas’ lead vocal. The overall production quality should be enough to leave his peers and music nerds around the underground drooling, and even more noteworthy, I don’t credit its polish for any of the charm this material has. That part of Coming Home is organic through and through, and you can tell as much in even a casual listening session spent with this tracklist.
It’s easy to be picky about singer/songwriters these days, considering all of the talent out there on the international level right now, and if you’re as discriminating as I am, John Mark Thomas’ sound might be something you’re going to be interested in finding out about via Coming Home this month. If this is his standard moving forward, I don’t see why his latest EP won’t be the last of his works to be released in a purely independent format — after all, with a talent as unique as his, I think mainstream appeal is more a question of attaining the proper exposure than it is cultivating the right skillset.