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                Tom Hall





Issue Three – Spring, 1998

 Don't know what Tom Hall has been doing all his life, but somewhere in there he has been writing and playing music. This is his debut, and it's not the debut of some young guy out to make his mark in the music world and enjoy a subsequent life of groupies and mad money. This is a John Hiatt-type of songwriter and performer, one who makes music which is aged just enough to have a full-bodied flavor and staying power. That Tom Hall's music bears at least a passing resemblance to Hiatt's mix of blues, R&B, rock, and even country just makes this debut more interesting. And then, lets just get the idea of "debut" out of the way completely. Nothing on Tom Hall - the disc – indicates “debut" skills or someone beginning an apprenticeship in the music world. This thing is sharp from start to finish without a single misstep along the way. It's lively, it's fun, it's polished just enough, and it's a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend an hour.

 Since the Hiatt reference has already been made, it should be refined to indicate that Hall's singing style as well as his choice of styles does link nicely with John Hiatt's style.  What Hall adds to Hiatt's vocal style is a touch of Ray Charles which Hiatt would gladly absorb if his voice had that quality in it. Tom Hall has a soulful voice which always carries a road-worn but ultimately optimistic tone to it. It fits his compositions perfectly. Whether applying those soulful shadings to the country-inflected "The Little Girl In You" or working it to the straight R&B funky groove of "I'm So Confused," Hall takes complete control in a friendly way. Whatever life has dished out to Hall over the years, he has learned to find some pleasure in it, and he transfers that to his music both in construction and in implication each time a note is played. Hall likes horns, he likes grooves, and he likes the sound of a full band- piano, organ, guitar, bass, drums – jamming together with a focus. His melodies are player-friendly, open for quick leads from everyone in the band. The piano might supply a nice New Orleans feeling, the sax might pop in a Chicago blues run, the guitar might supply a Motown rhythm, and Hall will then glue it all together with a pleasing rasp to his blues vocal which says "this is fun stuff, ain't it?" In the process, someone else keeps lurking around the corner - Van Morrison. When Van was having fun with music back in his “Moondance” days, he had a good time working blues/soul melodies, letting background vocalists do a soul backing when it felt right and enjoying the horns popping out with all their metallic brightness. That's certainly the sense you get from Tom Hall's music. Springtime romps with plenty of sixty mile an hour, top-down fun to it. It's everything soul, R&B, rock, and blues can be when it's in a good mood, and Tom Hall handles it with wonderful control and joy in its ability to rejuvenate the soul.

 Of these fourteen songs, several fit squarely into that bright, Van Morrison feeling. Several more have that slightly grittier John Hiatt approach to the same music Van Morrison loves. Balancing these are several with distinctly Latin rhythms. The opener, "Paris Rain," carries with it a Santana feeling in its tight rock core which builds into a tight jam set to a dark, sultry Latin beat. "I’d Sure Feel Better" takes a tango beat, and "Domestic Life" moves just north for a Tex/Mex story which sounds for all the world like the dark side of Marty Robbins. (This tale of young girl, older guy sports lines like, "She was fifteen years old, she could bowl with a 16-pound ball/ I was forty-three, I could barely bowl at all.") Following this he moves to the Caribbean flavor of "Evolution", complete with steel drums, congas, and other assorted percussion. But at the core of everything Tom Hall does is a solid sense of the groove needed to make it move, and he delivers fine grooves time after time on this recording.

 Some recordings just feel great. The previously mentioned Moondance was one of those; this is another. There are reasons for them feeling so great, not the least of which are good songwriting, inspired playing, and vocalists who can make their pleasure almost tangible. But analysis always seems silly when you sit there listening to music this enjoyable. The brain doesn't want to think, just feel. And when Tom Hall - the disc - finishes, the brain says to itself "thank you Mr. Hall, you've just made life seem a whole lot better." Skip the next Prozac and pop this on instead.

Inigmatic rascals will love the new Tom Hall CD "California". It's full of Kansas City style bacon and eggs, sunny side up ! Empecably rendered, and produced with a guitar player who is a witty, graceful combination of Mike Bloomfield, and Roy Buchanan. No shit, but this thing it's great.

Bob Sebbo
Mystic Number National Bank

CD Review - Miles McMahon

InfoZine, June 1997

 In keeping with what seems to be blues month here at infoZine, our next focus is on local veteran bluesman Tom Halland his latest, Tom Hall.

 Hall blends jazz and R&B, turning out blues that has an indigo core yet is accessible and fun. He fuses various influences in his repertoire, using be-bop rhythms on "Mighty Fine Love", while adding flamenco guitars to the background of "I'd Sure Feel Better". Hall keeps it all together with a down home lyrical style and gravelly, straight-forward vocals.

 Most captivating though, is Hall's road-weary spirit. His sense of wisdom lends itself well to his style of jazz and blues. On "Now That You're Somebody" he croons "Peoplewant to be near you, hold them in your hand/now that you're somebody, am I part of the plan?" with a sense of weight and depth. Hall's knowledge has a nice way of working itself into his songs, turning them more into windows into his artistic soul rather than just songs, and letting the listener in on a wonderful journey.



Review by Dan Torchia, May 1997

 Singer/songwriter Tom Hall has been a fixture in the Kansas City music scene for many years. This CD shows why he’s been a favorite.

 It features 14 songs which showcase a range of writing styles, ranging from folky to shuffling blues a la J.J. Cale. Hall often writes in a ‘storytelling’ style, weaving tales about characters in the margins of life and the decisions they must face. In songs like “The Little Girl in You” and “I’m So Confused”, Hall’s writing abilities are quite compelling.

 Max Berry’s sympathetic production dresses these songs up in their proper context. His palette is broad and his choices are always on target. When was the last time you heard flute, organ, a horn section and gut-string guitars on the same record?

 Recorded at Berry’s studio in Olathe, this is the best-sounding local recording I’ve heard in a long time. Many of the area’s best musicians play on it, and all should be commended for its success.

 With this CD, Hall has made an honest and moving artistic statement. Recommended.


Review by MM, June,1998

 Singer/songwriter Tom Hall is a bandleader with a sense of the moment to moment blessings and the day by day pratfalls of the common man. With the heart of a hobo and the gritty, aching crooning of a seasoned, veteran professional, he sounds like a combination of Springsteen, Johnny Rivers and Ray Charles.

 Hall's engaging tales of existence straddle the balance beam, walking a tightrope between life and death, love and hate pain and pleasure. His primary colors are blues, country, rock and flamenco.

 This CD brims with acoustically defined and concrete blasting - oft-times both within the same tune. Hall’s lyrics are tough and masculine. Each song is fully occupied. There is nary an increment to spare, as Hall brings the listener into the life of each track.

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