I like this — it has attitude. Tom “the Suit” Forst is a musician who started his career at 57 & is now 69. OK maybe I shouldn’t mention age but hell, this guy’s music is a blues ass-kicker.
He’s a former major TV company executive (same as me in the 70s). Neither of us lived the blues but Tom has a precision band, & has tunes arranged in a manner that is blues-proficient. As the late Jeff Healey & John Campbell had done. There are no real blistering charged Roy Buchanan guitar solos, but few guitarists are Buchanan. Tom doesn’t sing with the harsh tones of older traditional blues artists, but he does polish what he does as veteran English blues wizard John Mayall & Duster Bennett had done. Maybe what he lacks is a great harmonica.
World of Broken Hearts, (Retro Records – drops Feb. 14th) produced by Ethan Isaac (backing vocals) in Connecticut (not a blues mecca) features guest musicians who drop musical notes that effectively splash & reverberate like rocks thrown into a pond.
Granted the blues have been strained through a colander & different styles have emerged through the years. What else can a blues musician do to create something of significance? But, Tom has done it. It’s not Stevie Ray Vaughn blues, not Muddy waters, or Robert Johnson. Let’s face it many of us have never lived the life of a real blues musician. We rely on interpreting. We sense the roots of it all when blues are strained through Americana. I didn’t say diluted. It’s like water with whiskey.
Tom sings, plays guitar, electric banjo & acoustic guitar quite well with Paul Nelson (slide guitar — from the Johnny Winter Band), Ryan Hommel (guitar, acoustic guitar, bass & piano from the Amos Lee Band), blues harpist James Montgomery, & Travis McNabb (drums, from Sugarland, Better Than Ezra).
Christine Ohlman (Saturday Night Live) duets on “Everything Is Falling,” & is known for her tune “The Deep End”. Additionally, Cynthia Tolson (violin), Suzy Bessett & Tiffany T’Zelle (backing vocals), Mike Forst & Vincent Brike (Keyboards).
“Late Night Train,” has a swampy dark Blasters feel. The penetrating blues guitar tone & under the surface banjo hitches to the B.B. King schooled blues guitar. The sudden change in guitar gears is a cool transition.
“I’m Not Over You Yet,” has a slightly processed vocal sound — nothing new in blues recordings. But, it’s the addition of banjo that elevates the showcase. It’s different despite the retro lead guitar reminiscent of late 60s heavy bands. The spirit in which this tune is performed is genuine. However, good blues should not rely on special effects or processing. Muddy Waters found that out on his Electric Mud LP which he detested.
At times the music is bright – but, not like the light from the real sun but the artificial luminescence of a big city at night. It’s all midnight café florescence & neon rather than high noon sunshine.
Willie Dixon’s “Hoochie Cootchie Man,” is a respective finale. Well-arranged blues for today’s ears without leaving behind the tradition.
Available at AppleMusic.