The past couple of years have been good to Scott Tuma. After a five-year hiatus, “Not For Nobody” reminded everyone of the subtle force that was lurking up in Chicago. He followed that up with an epic collaborative LP with Zelienople’s Mike Weis and an underrated gem as part of the Good Stuff House trio. Those ideas and manifestations present on all three albums come to a head with “Dandelion.”
This is Scott Tuma at his most definitive, most vocal, and most devastating. His acoustic vignettes flicker in and out like the specters of long forgotten greats, showing up just long enough to remind you that once upon a time, they ruled the land of kings. Sparse guitar plucks and banjo strums ache in the thin air. “Red Roses For Me” puts all the pieces in place with hollow, reverberating drones piercing the grey skies in the first half of the song. Quiet recordings of birdsong echo in the background, bouncing off minimally shifting banjo and chimes. But this is when Tuma really starts to mess with you, this is when “Dandelion” takes one of many unexpected turns. As a siren wails in the background, he is almost playful in the last half of the piece with a chord organ and gently strummed guitar bleeding nostalgia into the streets. It’s a sinister joke in the middle of the flood.
“Dandelion” is a a hymn to loves won, then lost. Dying on the vine, he bellows “You are so pretty,” yearning for something simpler and easier to navigate. “You’re always on my mind” reminds us that things come to an end, that even the best things have a shelflife. It runs head first into the megalith that is “Free Dirt.” Mike Weis makes his present felt as the duo navigates the darkest moments Tuma’s ever put to tape. This is “Taradiddle” drowned in the mud. Hope is lost to the darkness as denial turns to acceptance. Winding down into a wall of cymbals and heavy-handed acoustic guitar, it’s total catharsis. Tuma and Weis show again just how well they work together.
Eventually this ride, this testament comes to an end. The mournful longing of the final two pieces wraps “Dandelion” up into a perfect, graceful package. Scott Tuma shows one more time why there’s nobody else like him around. This may be an album that asks a lot of questions, but it answers every single one.