The first thing I registered when I heard this record was surprise. I don’t know why, but for some reason I had envisioned Tom Morello’s singing voice to sound more like his iconic guitar sound – high, keening and paint-peeling. Instead, his voice is textured and low, much like Tom Wilson (of Junkhouse and Blackie & The Rodeo Kings). And while I was surprised by this, I was also rather pleased. This record sounds really good.
Of course, the guitar work fits the project perfectly. He certainly has a knack for that, as any fan will know well. The political activism here is no surprise either, given his status as a Guilty Party with Rage Against The Machine, and his involvement in all kinds of movements and charities and all that. So in all, this record simply works as a personal statement.
The right man with an acoustic guitar can change the world (think Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Billy Bragg and, hell, even some Springsteen) and that’s what Morello’s ambitiously reaching for here. It’s no mistake that I mentioned these other artists just now, since they wrote protest songs that expressed their anger and disappointment with the world while, on the other hand, talked about the way they saw things should and could be. Their words made you think, made you re-evaluate, woke you up. They were of their times, too.
I recommend that you give this record several listens and then add the Nightwatchman to that list, folks. This could be one for the ages.