Tom Heyman – 24th Street Blues
This Tom’s 6th CD which explores as a concept the endangered culture & living ghosts of San Francisco’s Mission District. Taking his musical cue from an era of songwriters that are equally socially conscience Heyman continues to follow in the footsteps of Tom Paxton, Tom Rush, Tim Hardin, Fred Neil & Eric Andersen with a slight dose of the late David Blue. All done admirably.
I like Heyman’s work because he doesn’t whine. He lays out the issues with tight melodies, striking lyrics & an ever-vivid voice. San Francisco was once a beautifully scenic historic city. A creative place, an inspiring one & in a welcome environment.
Produced by Mike Coykendall (acoustic & 12-string guitars/bass/percussion/drums) the 45-minute 24th Street Blues (Drops Oct 6–Bohemian Neglect Records) has pinches of sadness & regret. How things have descended on this community. 24th Street is where Tom (vocals/acoustic & 12-string guitars/pedal steel & baritone guitars) for 20 years lives with his wife – in a sprawling, converted storefront rental deep in the Mission District. The LP details Tom’s observances & interactions with its inhabitants.
I like that he mentions that he follows the Mark Twain credo of “write what you know.” He knows this part of a challenged city. Tom’s character observances (“Sonny Jim”) are acute & outstanding with an inherent fortified melody with its pastel charm & Byrds-like serendipitous folky tone. Done quite well.
It would be easy to lump Tom with John Prine & Gordon Lightfoot but the displaced souls, delinquents, weathered personalities, junkie tragedies & other victims of misadventure seep more from pens like David McWilliams (“The Days of Pearly Spencer”) with Irish hooligans of Shane McGowan’s ballads & the downtrodden L.A. fanatics of Chuck E. Weiss – they all qualify.
Not an easy subject to turn into an attractive melody. But I respect Tom for taking not only one song but a whole LP of songs that turn the glass into focus like the powerful “The Mission Is On Fire.” It comes to light how one man’s tragedy can be turned into profit. How nice. The 12-song set was in part recorded in Portland, OR – another hotbed. On this CD certain pieces are instantly eye-brow-raising — “Searching For the Holy Ghost,” is one such tune. With its driving catchy melody & guitar riff with Tom singing in a glorious J.J. Cale dynamic. This LP is a heavyweight.
Highlights – “24th Street Blues,” “Barbara Jean,” “Sonny Jim,” “Hidden History,” “The Mission Is On Fire,” “Quit Pretending,” “Like a Lion,” “Searching For the Holy Ghost,” “White Econoline” & “That Tender Touch.”
Musicians – Rusty Miller (piano/organ/bass/drums/percussion/acoustic guitar), Scott Hirsch (percussion), Mike Slo-Mo Brenner (lap steel guitars) & Greg Loiacono (harmony vocals/vocals).
Color image courtesy of Tom’s website & Lauren Tabak. CD @ Amazon & Bandcamp (with song samples) + http://www.tomheymanmusic.net/