June 6, 2007 There don't seem to be many Americana artists around anymore, combining folk and light country with pop and rock. As a fan of Ray Charles and Elvis who learned his songwriting from the Beatles, Greg Thelen is a good candidate to try his hand at the genre. On his independent disc Enough Thunder, he succeeds in creating a diverse and listenable disc that manages to create it's own voice. The beauty of the music is it's unpredictability, which is unexpected on a disc that so obviously wears it's influences on it's sleeve. Thelen is interested in songwriting first -- the cover art is the artist sitting on a roof hugging his guitar and grinning -- and in popularity second, so nothing here is calculated. There are Beatles influences on 'Guys Who Think They're Special' and 'Pump the American Dream' adds a cool early Stones vibe to lyrics about a rather touchy subject. Being Americana, the music sometimes turns into obvious front-porch folk, like 'Letter In My Back Pocket,' which sports a Muddy Waters-inspired blues riff, or the simple acoustic 'Girl Out Island Road.' The biggest surprise is 'Boulders On The Hill,' a flat-out electronic gospel tune about those sort of people who think they know what's best for everyone else. Although Thelen's voice is thin and relegated to the background, the funky gospel riff carries the song and the soulful saxophone solo carries it home. What Thelen manages to pull off is a complete absence of pretension. Unlike other calculated singer-songwriters, the type who know the songs they write will get them laid, Thelen is happy just to write and sing. This means it may never transcend folk festival or bar band status, but sometimes that's fine, because one could easily see more popular artists covering these songs (especially the Springsteen-inspired 'Glory Road,' which uses American images and piano to attempt a patriotic heartland song. It's pretty good). For this critic, more of the electric songs and less of the folksy acoustic would have made this a far better album, but taking Enough Thunder on it's own rootsy terms will result in a fun listen from a guy who just wants to play, who can even make the finger-picking blues of 'A Little Extra Time' sound like fun. . . not a bad way to spend 40 minutes. © 2007 Benjamin Ray -- The Daily Vault Here's some backstory: The Girl Out Island Road is a simple love song with painterly images and a big acousic guitar sound. When I first started writing this, the focus was on another person, but as the song evolved, the girl kept edging herself closer and closer to the center of the picture. It's where she belonged all the time. Guys Who Think They're Special is a song about what some guys do when they're feelin' large. Casey Scott owns the chorus with smoky conviction. Wow. The alto sax fine-tunes the mood. Pump the American Dream - Just a little ditty that sheds some light on a volatile subject. This arrangement took a bit of time to figure out, but once I got the rhythm hook on my Strat, things started falling into place. Letter In My Back Pocket is a true blue story. That guitar riff is in the style of Muddy Waters, may His Eminence rest in peace. Boulders On the Hill is my reaction to all those dominant types who think they know so well how to manage the rest of us. It all started when I bought a piano at a time when world events were tearing through my brain. The basic riff and idea just came jumping out the first time I played it. If this song had Jesus in it, it would be called Gospel music. I call it alt. Gospel. I Could Never Love Anyone (the Way I Love You) is a lot like the roots music I grew up with. At the last minute I couldn't resist adding the little Jimmie Rogers bridge toward the end. When the Time Has Come is another song that came out of a new instrument - guitar. There were three different riffs I kept coming back to over and over. I thought they were going to be three songs, but they really belonged together as one. After I finished it, I wondered if anybody else would know who or what it was about. Maybe it doesn't matter. Maybe there's a bit of everyone in it. Glory Road - Ever have an experience you've struggled to put into context? Maybe everybody has their own glory road. I had fun turning this one into an old fashioned power ballad. Alone came to me like a bolt of lightning out of a clear sky - well, maybe a cloudy sky. It is the first of a series of songs that surfaced when the struggle to come up with something 'good' had overwhelmed me. The version on the CD was the third arrangement I did. Sometimes less is more. I dare a popular singer to cover this one. A Little Extra Time - Fingerpickin' blues will never die. This was a lot of fun to write and record. It was always going to be the last song on the album.