TOMMY WOMACK – NOW WHAT!
2012 – Cedar Creek Music
Tommy Womack’s music has always been melodic and oozed quality, with his excellent writing, vocals, arrangements and instrumentation being top notch and the standard is if anything even better on this new recording. On the flip side, even ‘quirky’doesn’t really sum up his music! He must be a nightmare for promoters, as well as for writers who try to describe him! Even though he is almost impossible to pigeon hole, ‘roots music’ with all it’s connotations and variations will have to suffice, but it’s also true that he is an artist I’m always happy to see live, as well as eagerly anticipating every recording he makes. He often seems to write about life and all it’s myriad foibles, without ever seeming to take himself too seriously. As
a consequence some may say there is an air of cynicism, but if that is his objective it is tempered by an underlying note of humour that never seems too far away!
This album is, if anything, even more stylistically diverse than previous offerings, even including a rap song! He ploughs a similar furrow to artists such as Nick Lowe, but with more
diversity of styles, although the quality is just as high. He is one of that small band of artists whose tremendously atmospheric vocals give much of what he does an alt.country feel in much the same way as Jay Farrar’s, although in spite of this he can’t be comfortably placed into that genre. There is certainly country music on this album, as there is on most of his recordings, and yet some of the non country songs, with different instrumentation, would fit into that genre, such is the quality of his writing. Humour is never far away either, even when the subject matter might have a serious theme, but it is more tongue in cheek, almost having a little laugh, or at least a snigger, at the human condition.
The quality of the playing is superb and with Lisa Oliver-Gray’s lovely harmony vocals blending well and helping to produce a slightly discordant element, this recording has an edginess that makes it stand out from the crowd. The diversity of styles never detracts from the album as a whole, despite including country, rap, blues, rhythm and blues, a little folksiness and perhaps
even power pop, all carried out with Tommy’s inimitable sense of style.
The album gets under way with Play That Cheap Trick, Cheap Trick Play, a song that someone I played the album to described as‘almost power pop in a Nick Lowe kind of way!’ Probably as good a description as any, with it’s excellent melody, tuneful guitars and keyboards.
There is the tongue in cheek On And Off The Wagon a terrific easy loping classic mid tempo country song with some beautiful steel guitar playing, followed by the enjoyable ‘rap’ song Ninety
Miles An Hour Down A Dead End Street, a song that somehow reminded me of Jim White’s 10 miles to go on a 9 mile road. Guilty Snake Blues is a mid tempo song that is evocative of early rhythm ‘n’ blues with a little extra bluesiness and some nice sax and keyboards, followed by Pot Head Blues, a terrific slow moody bluesy ballad that shows his vocals to terrific effect. Finally, a song that is reminiscent of John Prines Unwed Fathers and stands up well in that exalted company. It is Wishes
Do Come True, a slow romantic ballad with gorgeous harmonies again provided by Lisa Oliver-Gray. A stunning song. As to the lyrics on album closer Let’s Have Another cigarette on which he claims to be no more than ‘a pimple on Dylan’s ass,’ not only is this untrue but it’s taking self deprecation a step too far by this quality artist who deserves to be much better known.
The mélange of styles blend so well into the album as a whole that stylistically Tommy Womack virtually creates a unique genre of his own, albeit one that overlaps into so many others
and long may he continue to do so! A really entertaining, high quality album.