I put on the Merle Haggard song by the same name and opened the new collaboration by Jack Bool and TJ Tambellini “Sing Me Back Home”. The first page shows a brown 80’s Chevrolet Caprice in the driveway at sunset, we can’t tell if it is broken down or running, the Caprice is flanked by groomed bushes nestled beside a house with a perfectly pitched roof. The book meanders on with more Americana subtleties in tow, a skull t-shirt on the back of a white man with a long-braided ponytail, a female torso adorned in cheetah print providing the background for a snake, a damaged electrical box casting long shadows, and a cultural ruin in the Southwest all become familiar places for those who have travelled to the tune of a gospel song.
In America we romanticize the open road, treating asphalt like an old friend we haven’t met. Cars can take us anywhere we desire, in their own way they become our second homes. We eat in them, fraternize in them, occasionally we sleep in them. In a way, America is about the long drive and about how the sun moves across the sky when you’re burning gas all day on the interstate. Bool and Tambellini present themselves as quiet individuals, traversing the American highway to god knows where with no real agenda. They seem like people who would take time to stop and smell the roses.
Some of my favorite images in this book include a giant boulder wearing a small red reflector, a barred window mirroring a yellow sunset into the distance, and a giant James Dean cutout painting standing at a gas station entrance. It feels like the these two really get around, like they want life to show them something, but they’re willing to go out and find it too. The photos are patient and timed just right, the light is nice and soft but the images are sharper than ever. A classic existential American “what is home?” sort of vibe looms over the entire book. Knowing just as much as it doesn’t know “Sing Me Back Home” feels contemporary and timeless even when it seems to mock itself with a Jack Kerouac quote on its back cover.
I think most people like to look at the stars when they can see them. Especially, when they can see a lot of them at once. Sing Me Back Home shows us a lot in a little amount of time, it illustrates the vastness of a country, the feeling of the backroads, the oppression of suburbia, how the light still feels good no matter where you are. This is a nice one to look at and worth tracking down if you can still snag a copy.
website: TJ Tambellini
website: Jack Bool
publisher: Pomegranate Press
review by Christian Michael Filardo
copyright © TJ Tambellini, Jack Bool and PHROOM, all rights reserved