Bill Toms & Hard Rain – Keep Movin’ On
Pittsburgh’s Bill Toms & Hard Rain have a reputation as musicians who mix genres with generous doses of rock, soul, rhythm & blues. Produced by Rick Witkowski (drums/bass) with brass provided by the Soulful Horns the LP was made from a distance, a virtual ensemble — due to Covid.
While many focus on this method of recording, i.e., no one being in the studio simultaneously it’s actually not new. Frank Sinatra recorded an LP of duets remotely. Rock bands “pieced” together & tracked individual musicians without the other players in attendance. The Beatles the most notable. They even make films that way (in “Heat” Al Pacino never had a real scene with Robert DeNiro).
It’s just a necessity today due to Covid. I predict this may be the norm. It may be cost-effective & the technology is there. Musicians contributed from Nashville to Italy.
Bill’s 10th LP, unlike many today, is music as a unity in pandemic times, it celebrates hope & faith. The lead guitarist began his career in 1987 with Joe Grushecky & the Houserockers. Shared stages with many major artists.
There’s a lot going on with here that’s to be admired. But there are also blemishes. Although quite frankly all the musicians & Mr. Toms are exceptional.
Keep Movin’ On (Terraplane Records/Drops April 30) opens with “Still Got Love,” – standard fare tune that follows the map, the recipe book with little deviation from the bar-band rock formula. Music done to death for decades by the J. Geils Band, Little Steven, Iron City Houserockers & Southside Johnny. However, despite a patchwork CD “Everybody’s Talking” (not the Fred Neil song by Nilsson) has pristinely recorded piano, horns, sax & trombone. Most importantly, the groove has authority. The music’s uplifting with a positive message. Well-arranged & expressively performed.
“Come To Me,” has good Bill Toms vocals. Still standard fare, genuinely soulful, with solid Muscle Shoals type horns. But some songs are a mixed bag of messages. No lack of power – all well played.
With a strong Mark Germino vocal style on “I Keep Moving On,” Bill stirs up a more accessible song. Will Kimbrough provides its stinging lead guitar. By “Walk In My Shoes,” Bill shifts to a Mason Ruffner vocal tint. Captivating, with a fiery sax (Stephen Graham) solo & everything, is ballsy.
Bill has some good “vocal emulations” & “Business on a Higher Ground” dips into the late blues guitarist John Campbell’s dark vocal style. Quite good. Entertaining.
Musicians: Steve Binsberger (keyboards), Phil Brontz (sax), George Arner (trumpet), Stephen Graham (trombone), Tom Breiding (guitar), Simone Masina, Jim Spears & Tom Valentine (bass), Bernie Herr (drums).
The 10-cut 43-minute CD has mediocre moments but enough musical momentum to keep listeners engaged. Available at iTunes & https://billtoms.com/home
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