This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 2/00
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
Tom House is a country singer-songwriter. Make that a literate country singer-songwriter. Did I leave anything out? Yeah, forget the hooks and hats, Tom House doesn't do corporate whoring. He probably finds solace and has a well-deserved if not well-rewarded pride in the fact that he is nowhere near mainstream anything. But then again, one listen to his music and, if he's anything like the characters he presents, it's doubtful he's seeking consolation anywhere from anyone.
Intermittently raucous, edgy, defiant but always twangy, House paints raw portraits of fascinating people, some we identify with and others we detour around daily. All his subjects seem to be sporting tattoos of pain induced by inexplicable choices and twisted serendipity. Love--hard, impossible, incomplete, at best fair-to-middlin'--is laid out here in all its bruising glory. For these are people who either cannot run fast or far enough to escape their demons or who accept their bumps and bruises as a fait accompli and continue on with their self-destruction.
Cannily depicting the weary dynamics experienced far too often when drugs and alcohol consume someone and steal them away from a family, House sings in "Sister's Song":
I thought I saw my brother yesterday
and all them years came in a flood
he used to bring me candy bought me my first bike
babysit me I was little there was nobody like him
far as I was concerned he was sweet he was caring
but where did it go when did it happen...
you were my best friend when did it end
you loved me then/ I saw it in your eyes
I can't find you in my heart/ you ain't there no more..."
now there's a life folks live never meant for me
like I told her last night on the phone
I like passing out cold dark rooms alone
waking up not even knowing what town I'm in
nothing personal at all never has been
nothing personal at all"
June July become September
I can barely half remember
a love grown cold and ever dimmer
you get the idea...
precious moments I retain
my life went through like a hurricane
I stood there pelted wind and rain
and I never felt a thing
something vague something constant
so pervasive I can't face it
I become it I embrace it
this is who I am
this long hard drinking's finally sinking in boys..."
and he'd talk about his wife but he wouldn't talk much
how she died on him early and he fell apart..."
and his friends would try to talk to him get him to quit
he'd say I don't want to quit I just like to drink
I can quit anytime I want to shit
but it's there in his eyes he never did believe it"
you ain't heard no weeping til you hear me wail
it's like barbed-wire wrapped around a gift from hell...
you ain't felt no guilt no deep despair
no soul so black even God don't care
it's the life I own rotting slow decay...
and today's like the ways we got used to each other
and tomorrow's like a sorrow we share and can't
remember where we came from figure how to get out
and the radio playing all them stupid damn love songs
and that ain't the deal we never agreed
we're gonna go brain dead braindead braindead in the middle of America
heartland heartland heartland of America
and it could have been Faith it could have been Tim
it could have been Garth or Tricia or any of them
it's just the one same song they're all singing the same song
over and over all night long..."
House, on guitar and vocals, is backed by Scott Chase on percussion; Tommy Goldsmith on mandolin, acoustic and electric guitars and background vocals; Tomi Lunsford on background vocals; Pat McLaughlin on mandolin, electric and acoustic guitars and background vocals; Sam Bush on fiddle; John Hedgecoth on jug and mandocello; David Olney on harmonica and background vocals; Paul Niehaus on steel guitar; Fats Kaplan on squeezebox; Steve Runkle on background vocals; Larry Reynolds on background vocals; and Tracy Nelson on background voclas.
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