New Music of The Day – CLXXVI : Just How She Died – Tommy Hale and The Magnificent Bastards

13680952_10154500097599113_8359076590053511933_nLike most musical labels employed by journalists and music tribe devotees, Americana, roots…even alt-country seem to have lost any meaning rather quickly. Despite hailing from a part of the world where those labels are used in abundance, Tommy Hale is just an old school rock and roller. Fully able to rock out when the mood takes him, here we find him pushing a bluesy, bar-room meets music-hall number.

The piano skitters along in Waitsian fashion, the bass pulses, drums play a straight, singular and solid beat, guitars resonate through the gaps but front and centre is Tommy’s whiskey soaked recollections and wailing harmonica.

Let’s not bother with chronology, this is timeless, forget geography or genre, this is nothing less than universally accessible music and nothing more than the soundtrack to a few too many at any bar, anywhere in the world. It could be everything, it might be nothing…who knows, just enjoy it.

 

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Magnificent Bastard – Tommy Hale (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

screen_shot_2016-06-22_at_1-19-55_pmIs it really nine years since the sure-footed tones of Stolen Conversations… first washed into my ears? Tempus does indeed fugit but what has changed? Well, in many ways not much. The same alt-country, punk, pop, soul and rock’n’roll influences swirl around this new musical melting pot, a lot of the same team are back on board and the honest reflections and personal narratives that mark Tommy’s work are still to the fore. If that is what you do so well, why change, right? Why not do what you do only …well, more so? Why am I asking you all these questions?

 

Anyway,  if the last album was a confident and evolved step on from Far From Grace, that trajectory has taken an even sharper upward curve this time out. So, the musical landscape may look familiar but there seems to be something more open, personal, heartfelt and extremely honest going on here. That has never been that far from the surface on previous albums but songs like Save Me, Homecoming Mum, Simple Song and Can I Lay Down Next to You seem almost confessional, the author allowing us into to his private thoughts and emotional personal space, an experience that almost feels intrusive and intellectually voyeuristic. Shared secrets rather than public proclamations.

 

Honesty like this is rare in rock and roll, and this is most definitely a rock and roll record. Forget all the clever relabeling and the on-trend terms such as “roots” and “Americana,” after all no two people ever agree on what either of those mean. This is a guy with solid R’n’R credentials hooking up with others who have taken similar musical journeys but it is age, experience, and those years treading the boards and wrestling with the craft at hand which shapes the music most. Maturity has its benefits.When it wants to rock out, like the titular opening track or the Stones-esque Backburner, it makes no apologies but for me it is the more insular and intense songs that sit between by which we should judge just how far Tommy’s song writing has come.

 

Capturing the sound of your songs is hard enough, capturing the sound of your very soul takes a lot more skill.

Stolen Conversations, Three Chords and The Truth – Tommy Hale (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

81YurlAyH+L._SL1500_The world inhabited by Tommy Hale’s songs seems a much brighter place these days. Not that it was ever overly morbid or dark, but his previous album, Far From Grace did seemed to be peopled by some fairly lost souls; yes Uncle Jim, I’m talking about you. Stolen Conversations, Three Chords and the Truth, despite the seemingly heavy burden of the title is a much more positive and breezier affair, though without losing the wonderful character studies that flavour his music. It’s just that now that the subject matter is just as personal but somehow more personable and even the more downbeat and reflective lyrical processes seem to be balanced by jaunty upbeat music and vice versa.

It takes an artist assured enough with his own abilities to kick an album off with not one but two covers. I’ll Be Around, penned by and a tribute to his UK musical brethren, The Snakes, whose members appear peppered through out the album, features here as a result of the great song swap of 2007 after which they added the brilliant Libertine to their set, an obvious single and a song that a Whiskeytown era Ryan Adams would probably have killed for.

The second cover comes in the much less obvious form of Just Like Heaven, the spin being that the main riff is transposed for a the trumpet; seeing the Cure rendered into a Mariachi rock delivery is something as brave and experimental as it is brilliantly executed.

As always, Tommy Hale seems to walk that fine, line between out and out rock and roll and a much more considered alt-country vibe, the result being a wonderful weave of upbeat urgency as shown on Belmont and Cecille and the minimal beauty of Hey Marlene. And if Punk Song 68 shows that he can kick out the jams with the best of them, Silver Clouds shows that he doesn’t have to.

It’s an album that doesn’t fall easily into any one genre but could be seen as a musical road trip that goes from Detroit to Nashville stopping off in Alexis Corners’ London blues scene, sleazy after hours Havana, swing door slamming country, tongue in cheek gospel and a big helping of straight up rock and roll. Now, who wouldn’t buy a ticket for that journey?

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