By Hailey Nuthals, Highlighter Editor
For a debut album, Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Todd Lewis Kramer’s “Fairground” sounds a lot like a follow-up to something. Every song feels like a reflection on something that’s already happened – a love lost, found, or born. His sound is something between folk, country and pop in a way that’s modern enough to appeal to an urban crowd but gentle enough to speak of nostalgia and greener grasses
The opening piece, “Barely Sleeping,” starts things out with an electric guitar hook that instantly evokes love in open air. The lyrics are a sweet story of love (“we know how this story unfolds”), and it may be a story already told, but it’s not one that we’re tired of hearing yet. Up next “I Want Your Love,” the album’s leading single, which feels like a perfect country-station hit. Swinging chord changes and just enough guitar to rock make it a perfect pick-me-up piece.
“Tennessee” sounds immediately like a Rascal Flatts song – overlooked, nostalgic, and echoing just every so slightly of black music influences in its vibe, the way that nothing out of the South can ever escape the legacy of gospel, blues, or jazz. Just like any song named after a place, it is steeped in nostalgia.
The next track, “Anna,” (which Kramer not-so-grudgingly admits to be his favorite song on the record), is a gentle ode to a friend. It’s a pleading for the past, an admission that it won’t come back, a beautiful dedication to a hurt that hasn’t yet faded away. Being one of the oldest songs on the record gives it a leader-ly context; it is easy to hear how some of Kramer’s other songs grew from the profundity and sonic landscape of “Anna.”
For the rest of the album, Kramer lets his smooth voice croon about his loves and the lessons they’ve taught him. It may not be a world-changing record, but not to its detriment; “Fairground” does not set itself up to be something so monumental. It is, instead, a simple offering of one man’s simple reflections. It’s beautiful, and sweet, and aching. It holds moments of hope in places like the moments between chorus and verse in “Who’s To Say” and melancholy spots like the line in “New York Girl” that goes “all those folk singers at the bar / they’re laying the soundtrack to this pity party of mine.”