There’s an understated ambition power Thomas Charlie Pedersen’s debut solo album Second Hand War. The obvious care taken with its fourteen track running order, the lyrical inventions driving its centerpiece songs, and the confidence it takes to rely on so little instrumentation forcing your words and voice to carry the day. Pedersen’s songs are tinged with a variety of human emotions and his talents as an arranger and player allow him the latitude to explore themes lyrically and musically in order to bring them into seamless accord. From the shortest song here, clocking in at less than a minute in length, to the album’s longest song “Kill With Kindness”, there’s an impressive completeness to the songwriting that makes this a practically cinematic listening experience.
“High Dust Devils” opens Second Hand War with a straight forward folk song cut in the mold of Bob Dylan or acoustic Bruce Springsteen. The lyrical content, like elsewhere, has obvious surface details, but there’s implications and subtext laced through the lyric open to interpretation. Pedersen’s phrasing here, as elsewhere, helps bring the song to even more vivid life. He takes a turn towards the musically lyrical with the album’s second track “Appreciation Hymn”. The cascading guitar lines and his voice perfectly matched to their rising and falling helps weave one of the album’s more lasting spells. Piano makes its first appearance with the song “:Letter from The Dead”. This is clearly one of the album’s central songs, running over four minutes in length, and Pedersen once again creates a nuanced emotional atmosphere that accumulates its effects rather than immediately swinging for the fences. “I For One” brings another taste into the stew with its introduction of mandolin and the comparatively happy, uptempo tenor it takes when compared to the earlier songs.
The title song is a brief, but beautifully composed instrumental that segues into “Uneasy Feeling”. Pedersen excels, as a songwriting, when addressing matters of the heart and there’s an incredibly deep well of experience driving this song. His phrasing locks tightly onto the piano lines and they unwind together in a graceful, poetic fashion. Similar peaks come with the next song, “Sycamoore Street” and another later piano ballad “The Harder The Fall”. His wide emotional net catches everything universal in its reach and there will be few listeners who can claim to be unaffected by these moving performances. The final gem in Second Hand War’s crown is the return to folk on “Kill With Kindness”. It’s his biggest lyrical workout yet and the extended verbiage holds up thanks, in part, to the exemplary and stylish guitar playing Pedersen provides in support. “Good Ride” is a wonderful closer because it cuts so clearly against the mood of the album’s second half and gives it a sense of truly ending. The sun-streaked mandolin lines and Pedersen’s energetic, yet relaxed, vocal are excellent touches. Second Hand War will leave listeners wanting more and, perhaps, wondering if Pedersen might be one of the major, under-acknowledged talents working today.
9 out of 10 stars.