New York-based singer/songwriter Tom Van Stockum's self-titled solo debut EP is an engaging mix of country and folk. Van Stockum had previously released an EP under the band name Tommy Kodak and the Loaders in 2013 that had a slightly harder country rock edge than this effort. Willie Nelson appears to be a strong influence on such tracks as "Sitting Stone" and "Closer to the Ground," the latter featuring nice guitar work from Nick Lerman. One of the stronger tunes is "City Limit Pothole," the mournful saga of a dispirited loner ("There's a sadness in his eyes/That always gets disguised/By the vitriol that's issued from his throat').
The comically bitter tale of lost love "Dearly Departed" has the singer rationalizing his newfound loneliness ("I don't mind the sudden silence/I sure don't mind the extra room'') with vocals that recall Arlo Guthrie. The effectively sentimental ballad "'Til the Ohio Don't Flow," featuring Stockum's wife, Brittany, on harmony vocals, has a more upbeat outlook ("Life is riddled with confusion/And love is often hard to know/Now my riddle's found solution/And I've no reason left to roam").
Produced by Alex P. Wernquest the musicianship is solid throughout with Lerman, Elliott Christ (piano, guitar), Wesley Nichols (piano, harmonica), Zach Lane (bass), Peter Ecklund (horns) and Hayden Hawkins (drums). With pleasant vocals and smart compositions, Van Stockum makes an impressive debut.