The wind is always the way you can tell when the seasons are changing. Around here, Fall and Winter come early and Spring takes its own damn time getting here. When the wind starts biting with a little of that colder Canadian air, what few tourists are left take their snapshots of the leaves changing on the mountain and get the hell out of here.
Can’t really blame ‘em. Winters here are not for the faint of heart. We lose power a lot and sometimes we get snow that nobody else sees. It gets cold too – not the kind of city cold they get in Richmond or points east, but the kind of cold that bites you and makes every step torture, every puff of wind a stinging pain.
But if you can live with the sound of generators firing up all over town, the solitude is kind of nice. Fall still has some beautiful days and nights before giving away to the punishing winter months – and when I have quiet evenings, I get to open up packages of CDs and even answer a few emails.
I got a very nice email from a West Coast PR Guy who usually turns me on to some decent acts. A lot of these bands would fly under my radar because I so seldom get out to the Left Coast these days and some of my friends that help me out – West Coast Tracy and her husband Casino Kevin have been out of touch following the Dodgers woes, while Director Bekah and Dangerous Dave are sprucing up the house waiting for the new baby so have been a little too busy to check out new acts for me.
So Downright Doug sent me a note asking if I would check out a group he’s liking and wants to get the word out. He tells me they’ve only been together a few years but have a good sound. He hasn’t steered me wrong yet and since I’ve got some down time, sure why not.
I’m glad I opened that email – Crooked Eye Tommy has got a tight old school sound that is brand new but somehow seems so familiar. The music is tight and the vocals are solid – this is great listening music and still can make you groove the night away.
The name of the album is BUTTERFLIES & SNAKES and just like the opposite images that conjures up, the band plays off its musical yin and yang to produce an album that is strong and yet soft at the same time. It’s not exclusively blues – there’s touches of rock and a certain California sound that show up, but it’s a good mix and the kind of CD just about everyone will enjoy.
The band consists of eleven songs penned by Crooked Eye Tommy front-person and band namesake Tommy Marsh and Tommy's brother, guitarist-vocalist, Paddy Marsh. Other members include Glade Rasmussen on bass, Tony Cicero on drums, and Jimmy Calire handling the saxophone, piano, and Hammond B3.
The opening track is an autobiographical number Crooked Eye Tommy, and it is a down-home swampy number that kicks things off nicely. Apparently Tommy Marsh was born with a couple of lazy eyes and he’s used this vision of the world to craft his blues.
The next track Come On In features some nice lead guitar and some wicked lyrics. This is one I definitely could see playing on Time For The Blues. The rhythms section of Rasmussen and Cicero give a nice dark beat to this song. Check it out.
Then there’s I Stole The Blues, which namedrops many great acts and takes over where The Blues Had A Baby (And They Called It Rock ‘N’ Roll) left off. A simple driving beat with little bits pulled from several artists – homages to their sound, with more than a little raucous saxophone from Calire.
Time Will Tell is a cool sound that isn’t quite blues and not really rock. It’s somewhere near that sweet soul sound that I love. This is where the title Butterflies & Snakes comes from – used as a description for women. It’s a very cool song and one I’ve been listening to for a while and enjoying the groove.
After that is Tide Pool, a ballad that again slides out of the blues genre to create its own sound. I could see this as a slow torch singer number. The guitar build is nice and somewhat reminiscent of Carlos Santana’s bridges in numbers.
After The Burn is perhaps my favorite on the CD. It builds on the spooky lyrics of Come On In with a more sophisticated approach that combines guitars and Hammond B3. The Santana reference is again very applicable. I’ll be playing this one for some time to come.
Before you start to thinking of Crooked Eye Tommy as some Johnny Come Lately One-shot band, they represented Southern California in a recent ICBM and from what I hear, they pretty much tore Memphis apart. They were semi-finalists (no easy task) and have made fans from all over the world. This is their first album and definitely won’t be their last.
We’re back to the down-home sounds with Somebody’s Got To Pay, good bouncy number with an upbeat sax solo that belies its darker lyrics. That’s the joy of the blues – the music might get you, but the lyrics tell the truth.
Love Divine starts out with a nice guitar hook and pulls you into the song nicely. It’s a good mix with a solid guitar solo that lifts it up and out. I bet this is a good song to see live. If they ever get east, or I head west, trust me, I intend to find out.
Then it’s time for Mad & Disgusted, a faster paced fun number with deep blues roots with more than a touch of barrelhouse blues. Once again we look at the modern world to see just what’s going wrong with things. Another great dance tune – we should all take advantage and dance while the Titanic hits the iceberg!
The band slows things down considerably for Over And Over, a very strong blues song that just tears at your soul listening to this man spill his guts. It’s evocative and emotional and the kind of despair we all know too well. An exceptional song.
We’re back home for Southern Heart, a tune that straddles the country and blues world. When you look at it, the two have more similarities than differences, so just kick back and relax. It’s well played and the vocals are sweet – a good way to end a fine CD.
Check out their CD and the band at http://crookedeyetommy.com/. And if you happen to be out in Southern California, check ‘em out live and tell the Professor how you liked the show. I’ll be here on the mountain making chili and waiting for the winds to change.