TJ Doyle made his debut in 2009 with the release One True Thing and, in the intervening decade, has established himself as one of the most idiosyncratic voices working in popular music today. Doyle is the rare musical artist who couples genuine musicality with an often socially conscious message; artists, all too frequently, focus the bulk of their efforts on a message while giving the musical package short shrift. His environmental conscious point of view informs his latest single “Ancient Wind” and he has surrounded himself with a five star cadre of musicians to help realize his aims for the recording. The entire package is here – first rate lyrical content, emotive vocals, and stellar musical texture. As a songwriter, Doyle has a unique positive slant that foregoes any of the navel gazing so popular with singer/songwriters and his roots rock sound connects on “Ancient Wind” as it has with his previous material.
The track has a mid-tempo pace that never threatens to overwhelm listeners and high quality production rendering each instrument with clarity and snap. The guitar work, in particular, is well served by the song’s sonic architecture. Dave Matthews Band alum Tim Pierce takes on a dual role through the track; much of his playing during the first half of the track and verses serves the song without ever commanding the spotlight, but he does step out later in the performance with some coherent and melodic lead guitar that puts an exclamation point on the recording.
Drummer David Raven is another key factor in the song’s success. He plays a straight forward style for much of the song, but spices his playing up with occasional and unobtrusive fills that add a little rhythmic flavor to the song. Moves like this prove, without a doubt, that it is often small details that help make a song stand out. The remaining musical performances are just as key, in the own way, but Pierce and Raven are the stand out players who help give the track a signature feel.
Doyle’s voice, tinged with a hint of the nasal, is cut from the tradition of folk rock singers and roots rockers like Dylan, Tom Petty, and Neil Young. The decision to apply post-production effects to his singing is a bit of a misstep; Doyle’s more than capable of carrying the track without any post-production gloss. His vocal phrasing underlines the intelligence driving his lyrics and conveys his concern for the issues explored in the words. His voice is full of emotion and feeling without ever lapsing into melodrama.
The track runs a little long at five minutes thirty eight seconds, it could have been a minute shorter and still carried the same impact, but it isn’t a flaw that irrecoverably mars the performance. TJ Doyle’s “Ancient Wind” is reflective, engaging on multiple levels, and shows that this songwriter continues to make great strides a decade on into his career. There are definitely no signs of slowing down. Instead, TJ Doyle sounds every bit as inspired and committed to his art as he did in 2009.