Reviewed by: Alan Ashton-Smith
Skiddle rating: 4/5
Tom Moriarty is perhaps unique amongst singer-songwriters in that he used to work in The City, but gave up his career there and turned his attention to his passion for music. Now, times may be hard in the financial district, but I’m pretty sure that most musicians who are releasing debut albums don’t command the kind of salaries that the average City boy is used to. In other words, Moriarty’s career change is not something to be undertaken lightly.
Fortunately, he has the talent to make this a realistic shift in vocation. His greatest strength is his voice, which is smooth but with a gruff edge; there is a charm to his singing, but he is not too clean-cut. He can do soulful or heartfelt in equal measure, and switches easily between hushed songs and fuller-sounding tracks. The bigger arrangements, such as lead single ‘Smile If You Want To Get High’ and ‘All You Need’ are the album’s weaker links; they are not poor songs by any means but Moriarty lends himself better to more intimate pieces, where the focus is on his fine songwriting and voice.
Opener ‘Fire In The Dolls House’ is all the better for its simplicity, and this is followed by the gentle ‘Dance With Me’. Moriarty handles the more upbeat numbers well too: the harmonica and banjo-driven ‘Stay With Me Tonight’ and the country and western tinged ‘Don’t Ask Why’ are also highlights. The album closes with the piano ballad ‘Kitty’, which recalls the more introspective moments of Tom Waits.
The overriding theme of Fire in the Dolls House is the idea that the we need to take a step back from the chaos of the contemporary world. On the title track he sings, ‘If you can’t see the madness, you might as well be blind’. His brand of folk-pop is not quite protest singing, but this is definitely song-writing with a conscience, and Moriarty’s message stands up to the quality of his music.