Weekender

Who is the Tommy Roberts? State College duo releases debut album

The Tommy Roberts isn’t a who, it’s a they — Nate Cutshall and Brian Cleary, and their new self-titled debut album knocks it out of the park.

“The question (about our name) comes up at pretty much every show we play,” Cutshall said. “It’s a random idea. We thought it was catchy and it perplexes people. We figure, if they ask the question, they’ll remember the name.”

Offbeat name aside, The Tommy Roberts’ debut album is an honest and discernible effort, capitalizing on the strengths of both musicians and their penchant for a groovy roots-rock sound.

“We’ve got something for everybody,” Cutshall said. “We’ve got blues, country, more rocking numbers, sad songs, a little hip hop, some funny stuff, some serious stuff, a lot of different sounds.”

With their inspiration from rock and folk and an occasionally generous heaping of hip hop, the Tommy Roberts consistently explores outside of the comfort zone of standard folk rock acts. Cleary is a maestro on lead guitar, and Cutshall plays the harmonica with gusto and delicate expertise.

The new album opens with the deceptively bouncy “Way to Go,” a song featuring Cutshall on harmonica and lamenting the loss of love named Sally. From the start, the band exhibits effortlessly meticulous vocal harmonies, bringing a pronounced palpability to every note.

On “The Moon,” the pair proceeds with a psychedelic-folk-rap sound, and seamlessly shifts ahead to “Ladybug Love Song.” While serenading a coccinellidae with a classic country style, the musicians are stalwart in their endeavor to never take themselves too seriously.

“Our goal is to make everybody feel good and inspired and touched,”Cutshall said.

The band’s blend of dual tenor vocals is beyond reminiscent of the classical style of Everly Brothers, with a often delicate grassroots twang.

Southern blues-rock inspires tracks like “Fishin’ for Pearls,” an ode to lazy summer afternoons hanging at a local watering hole.

The Tommy Roberts never clobbers the audience over the head with overproduction or distraction from the main themes. The album, produced and mixed by local music luminaries Noah Figlin and Mark Ross, is a bare-bones beauty with no frills and a lot of soul.

“It’s a good variety, especially for just two people,” Cleary said. “The album is pretty honest to how we sound live, not a lot of extra instrumentation beyond what we do in the live show.”

The collaborative creative effort of Cutshall and Cleary is the central nervous system of the Tommy Roberts.

Beyond their solid debut effort, the Tommy Roberts can be experienced live throughout Pennsylvania. The pair’s quick rise from obscurity to local celebrity has helped them book more than 125 shows this year alone, including in New York and Philadelphia.

“We’re growing quickly,” Cleary said. “There are a lot of good musicians around here, we’ve been fortunate to make a lot of connections really quickly.”

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