Hooked On Music-2016
Michael Masuch, (Artikelliste), 06.03.2016
"Beautiful Dream" Tom Gillam & the Kosmic Messengers
Blue Rose Records / Great Tone Records
There aren't too many hardworking and sympathetic musicians equal to Tom Gilliam who has just released his 8th solo album “Beautiful Dream”.
You can always trust in Tom's abilities to fusion Roots-Rock with Americana and great songwriting skills. Songs like “Tell me what you want”, “Just don't feel” and “Like love” are proof of that.
Gilliam has made a name for himself with his radio-show in Texas and as a member of the US Rails. Together with his new band Cozmic Messengers he brought out 10 catchy songs, including an Eagles cover “Good day in hell”.
Gilliam's album sounds raw, full of live and is true to his roots. While both guitars are having epic battles or are more laid back and relaxed, it reminds you of a Allman Brothers meet Grateful Dead kind of vibe during “Lazy sunday”.
Every now and then Tom likes incorporate musical surprises for his listeners by adding the saxophone in “All about me” and the electric piano alongside the dobroguitar in “Sail away”
almost demand of us to click the repeat button.
All in all “Beautiful Dream” is a solid album which seems to get better and better every time you listen to it while you discover new details which approve of this album's uniqueness.
In one word: brilliant.
Blue Rose Records / Great Tone Records
When in 2007 Tom Gillam´s first German album NEVER LOOK BACK was published with Blue Rose Records, no fan of good, handmade rock music knew him over here. Luckily that has changed, he went to completely convince our editorial staff with for example RUSTIC BEAUTY and LAST NIGHT ON EARTH. The Secret of this New Jersey musician, who chooses to reside in Texas nowadays, is not necessarily the “what” but rather the “how”.
Tom´s style is one of strong and well-tried rock music with lots of seventies touch in it, offered in a vast variety without ever losing sight of the real thing.
And with this new album BEAUTIFUL DREAM this American has put out a real pearl which won´t necessarily change the world or turn it around – but it will open the heart of any oldschool rock fan.
I have already talked about the variety, reaching from wicked Rock with almost brazen groove (TELL ME WHAT YOU WANT) to a pinch of Westcoast (JUST DON’T FEEL LIKE LOVE and GOOD DAY IN HELL) to slight Southern Rock (RED LETTER DAY). If you stumbled over it, yes, let me tell you GOOD DAY IN HELL is indeed an EAGLES song from their album ON THE BORDER (1974). Which I didn’t really notice at first, that`s how well the number fits into the rest of the program.
The two strongest numbers on the album are FLYING BLIND and BETTER THINGS TO DO. FLYING BLIND shines with a Southern Rock inspired, formidable melody and slide guitars, you can`t help but smile when you listen to it. Adding sympathetic casual lyrics about how things in life (almost)always do not turn out quite as planned. ALL ABOUT ME is another rich Rock song. With LAZY SUNDAY Gillam spoils us with even more Southern feeling that goes straight to your heart and bleeds from the latter.
The second already mentioned grenade is BETTER THINGS TO DO in which the slide guitar is predominant. Slowly evolving verses are climaxing in a super strong chorus which sticks with you immediately. A song to which you would like to listen repeatedly, several times in a row.
Which does not intend to diminish all the other songs on the album, because there really is no dud on BEAUTIFUL DREAM. The album rounds up with a beautiful 2-minute acoustic instrumental called DNG, and finishes exquisitely with the soulful ballad SAIL AWAY (nah, not the Randy Newman song) maintaining the album´s high quality level.
Ah, and since I forgot to mention it, Tom Gillam is also a member of the grandiose band US RAILS. Gillam stands for quality, but also for fun – and that´s a pretty damn good combination if you aks me. If you haven´t totally given up on 70`s Roots Rock mixed with Southern and Country Rock, then you can count on Tom Gillam.
BEAUTIFUL DREAM is definitely a winner and Tom Gillam an enrichment to his genre.
No Depression 2013
CD Review - Tom Gillam "Good For You"
Posted by Alan Harrison on February 16, 2013 at 8:00am
Classic Country-Rock makes a comeback and the world is a better place for it
Sometimes I can become a bit of a music-snob; only ‘enjoying’ albums from the ‘next big thing’ or (worse) bands or singers that the general public will never get to hear; but occasionally something comes along that reminds me that music is just be enjoyed because it is enjoyable!
I’d played this album a few times in my office and had quite enjoyed it; then I had to make a six hour car journey and that is when GOOD FOR YOU came into it’s own.
This is perfect driving music in the way Tom Petty, Joe Walsh, The Eagles or even the Allman Brothers were in my younger days; and still all get played on similar journeys.
Tom Gillam has a warm and friendly voice and his band can certainly hold their own with any of the afore mentioned bands; plus the subject matter of the songs hardly ever strays from the classic formula of boy meets girl/boy falls in love/boy gets dumped and that’s meant as a good thing.
Album opener Right Here/Right Now is a good old fashioned Blue collar Rock and Roller that sets the mood just perfectly and the grown up love song Last Night on Earth straddles Springsteen and Tim McGraw territory with the greatest of ease.
Put Me in the Ground opens with some sweet and gnarly bottle neck guitar before Gillam pounds his chest and pretends to be an Alpha Male in a world strewn with Rock and Roll causalities. I can just picture the lighting and pyrotechnics that will accompany this song when performed live.
Things slow down for the Southern swamp encrusted Something’s Not Right; and the scary harmonica playing from label mate Lincoln Durham will send shivers down your spine on this tale of cheating and insecurities.
The album ends on another high; as One More Time sounds like a band who know exactly how good they are and give us some mighty fine boogie in the best traditions of Memphis and Nashville.
Tom Gillam – Interview 2010 Lone Star Music Magazine
By Dale Martin
Tom Gillam moved from the east coast, the New Jersey, Philadelphia area, to Austin a few years ago and has proceeded to take the Texas music scene by storm. His hard-rocking sound, combining great lyrics and ample amounts of slide guitar, has been a refreshing treat for local music fans. His latest CD, Had Enough, is his first album recorded entirely in Texas — not to mention one of the best of his career. A fantastic singer, songwriter and guitarist, Gillam is also one of the nicest guys you will ever meet. We’ve had many conversations about music, life and just what it takes to make it in this business we call music. Here’s one of those conversations.
You moved here from the East Coast, which gives you a different background than a lot of the artists in this area. Most of the artists around here were born in Texas and grew up in this environment. You are coming into the Texas music scene from a different angle. I thought it would be a good idea to get back to the beginning and talk about your roots.
OK, cool. I was born in Camden, N.J., which is about 20 minutes from where I wound up living, which is a town called Deptford. Oddly enough, the hospital I was born in is the hospital they took me to for my heart attack and bypass surgery. So I was born there and I died there.
I’m the oldest of five kids. My dad was into weird gadgets and grew up in the ’50s, so he loved rock ’n’ roll. We always had albums and 45s, and at one point he bought an old jukebox. He filled it with 45s, and disconnected the coin slot so you could play music for free. He would restock it every couple months with all the new music that was popular at the time.
Was it in the living room?
No, it was in the basement. My dad and uncle finished out the basement and put the jukebox down there. One side was what we called the playroom; the other side had a fireplace and a bar. That’s where my parents had their parties. Listening to all that music on the jukebox is when music started becoming a big deal to me. I think I was about 6 or 7 when he got the jukebox. He taught us how to push the buttons to play the records.
What was your dad’s taste in music?
He grew up in the ’50s. He was really into the British Invasion and country music. My parents were huge Johnny Cash fans, Bill Anderson … I’m trying to think of some of the others. We used to make fun of him when I was a kid, but I still knew every tune.
Maybe some Buck Owens or Merle Haggard?
Definitely Buck Owens and Glen Campbell, not so much Merle Haggard. Haggard may have come along later. Whatever was popular or was on the country Top 40 charts at the time. Whatever was popular in the mid-60s. We had a fire in the basement when I was in the seventh grade and the jukebox went away. I was probably in my early teens when that happened but it was OK because by then we had a stereo. Like I said earlier, Dad was a gadget guy and about that time he bought a reel-to-reel tape recorder that would play pre-recorded tapes. But my brother and I figured out it was also a two-track recorder so we started recording stuff on it. I was in my early teens and we tried to start a band. We would tape our rehearsals, and then me and this other kid figured out that if we would sing harmonies, then switch to the other track and sing more harmonies, then we could have four part harmonies.
Kind of like how Les Paul invented double-tracking back in the ’50s.
Right. And you have to understand, we were bored. I’m living on a street with just three other houses and then about a mile away there was a bunch of pig farms. We were out in the middle of nowhere. Not now, but back then it was the middle of nowhere.
You mentioned forming a band. Is that when you first picked up guitar?
No, the guitar came later, I started out as a drummer. When I was in the sixth grade, I wanted a drum set but my parents didn’t want to buy me one. So they bought me a snare drum and a cymbal, which I decided would be my drum kit. About this time they got my brother a cheap guitar, a harmony rocket guitar and a vox amp. So we started messing around with the drums and guitar. Then finally in about the seventh grade they bought me a used drum kit. So I got a real drum kit and my brother got a better amp. He wasn’t much of a guitar player; he wanted to play sports or play anything but music, but music was all I wanted to play. Around the start of high school I got bored with the drums and picked up his guitar and a bunch of music books. These books had all the Beatles songs in them and I knew all those songs from Dad’s jukebox.
You know, Eddie and Alex Van Halen did the same thing. Eddie started out on drums and Alex played guitar. Then in high school, they traded and we all know how that turned out.
Yeah, it was kinda like that for us. I got tired of being behind the drum kit. Our first band was me on drums, my brother was on guitar and a friend of ours was on bass, but he could also play guitar. They were trying to sing and really couldn’t and I knew I could. So I was behind the drums but then decided I was gonna play guitar.
Did your band have a name?
I’m sure we had one, but I can remember. Eventually it became a band called Wintergreen. We picked that name because we liked Johnny Winter, although it doesn’t make any sense when I think about it now. I had another friend that also played drums so he became our drummer and we had like four guitar players. Then I talked my brother into playing drums. So for awhile we had two drummers and three guitar players.
Like the Allman Brothers
Oh, we loved the Allman Brothers! We couldn’t play their music, but we loved them. Things just grew from there, I picked up the guitar during the summer between eighth and ninth grade and by the end of the year I was good enough to play in a band. By the tenth grade, I was in a band and gigging on a regular basis. Our dad was our ‘quote un-quote’ manager; he got us gigs at high school dances, just anywhere we could play. We had a station wagon and we’d load all our stuff in it. All our instruments, our junky little PA system and us. In his eyes, I’m sure it was all just fun, but in my eyes, it was what I was going to do. I had a band all through high school and that morphed into the band that started playing bars in the Jersey area when I was 18. Things just fell into place. We became a pretty popular cover band, but after a couple years we got bored and decided we should start doing our own music. By the ’80s, I got another band called Radio Rodeo. The cow-punk thing was popular, like Jason & the Scorchers, so we put together this really weird hybrid band that actually got pretty successful in Philadelphia.
On top of all this you will want to add in the fact that probably from the time I was 20, I had a drug problem — a drug and drinking problem which would escalate in various forms and pretty much held me back from doing what I should be doing. It was a lot easier to focus on ‘we got a gig, let’s go get high,’ as opposed to ‘I gotta write some songs.’ Then, once I cleaned up in my early 30s, I had a hard rock band called Gypsy Rose that eventually ended and became a band called Blue Noise. All of these were bands that never went anywhere. I got frustrated with everything and started my solo career in my mid-30s.
Now was music your main gig or did you have the dreaded ‘day job?’
When I was 18 my dad said I had to get a regular day job. He got me a job with his friend that had a company that cleaned oil tanks at refineries. It was awful. I did that for about a year. A future brother-in-law, who is now an ex-brother in law, had a company that framed houses and I did that for a couple years. Then I worked in music retail in one form or the other for the next 15 years or so. I worked in a music store, ran a video store, worked at a record store then went back to the music store. I was still playing gigs all this time, but the thing is, in New Jersey, in order to make a living, you had to play in a cover band. Once I decided I wasn’t going to do that anymore, making enough money to pay the bills wasn’t possible, so I would just take any part-time job I could find. All those jobs I mentioned were just a way to kill time in the afternoon so I could play music at night.
Most bands got their start doing the same thing.
There’s no set way to do it. Some guys get their break at 21. I just wasn’t in an area to get a break; people say ‘you should’ve just moved,’ but at that time it didn’t seem like an option. It felt like that’s where I was supposed to be. When I think about it, I have no regrets. I don’t think that if I could go back and do it again it would be all that different.
Well, you had your family and friends there, it’s hard to leave that environment.
There are definitely people that do leave that behind, though, and I did when I moved to Texas. Honestly, when it was time to move, it was time to move. Up until that point, it just didn’t feel like it was supposed to happen
You’ve always been very honest and plain spoken about drugs and alcohol. It seems like musicians fall prey to that simply because they are exposed to it so much
You’re right, you are around it and it’s easily available. When you are in this world, no one wants to be in their own skin. However you do it is the way you do it. Everybody in the world does it. The guy that works 40 hours a week and says ‘I’m gonna have a beer when I get home.’ Everybody anesthetizes themselves from the life that they live, and some people can handle it, some can’t. I think that artists, by and large, are an extremely insecure bunch of people. Just because you have talent doesn’t mean you can deal with the fact that you have talent. There’s a whole set of things that go along with that. Add that to a business where there’s no business plan and no path to follow. It can also be a popularity contest, where being the best doesn’t necessarily mean you finish first. That’s just a fact. My philosophy is that famous and popular people are there for a reason, but it doesn’t mean they are the most talented. The first lesson of the music business is that it’s a numbers game and just because you work really hard and do all the things you are supposed to do and you have talent, it doesn’t guarantee you a spot in the Top 40. My point is that if you add that into an already insecure humans head, you have a recipe for disaster. It’s like, ‘Well, I can be depressed and upset, or I can have a few beers, a shot of whiskey, smoke some weed or do a line, and I can pretend that everything’s OK.’ That worked out pretty well for awhile and I had a great time. I don’t advocate drugs or drinking, especially for somebody else, but it worked for me for quite awhile, until it didn’t work anymore. Then that downward slide is really fast, so fast you don’t even realize it’s happening. Then you go, ‘OK, I’ve got to make a change.’
But your creativity was still there. When I listen to your early albums, the music and lyrics are solid
I would say the downfall to all of that is that when I wrote songs, I was writing for a million different reasons, but not writing for me. If my band was playing a pool hall, that’s what I wrote for. In my mind, I was just trying to get from point A to point B. The down side is that’s not the way to be an artist and it was a life lesson I had to learn. That lesson was how to be me and not worry about what everybody else thinks. I’m probably not articulating this the right way, but I really don’t care if anybody likes what I do. I’m just doing it and I have to enjoy it. I don’t write a song because I think ‘Oh, boy, everybody will love this song.’ I wrote it because it just won’t leave my head. Then I go in the studio and record it. For the past 12 or 15 years I’ve been afforded the luxury of not having to pay for studio time. I have a business partner, who is a creative partner as well and he has the studio. I met him in 1995, and that’s when I started to get serious about my solo career. We both worked in a music store together. I was at a point in my life where I was about done with trying to make a living in the music business. It was really rough and I was just trying to figure out where I fit in. So I thought ‘I’ll just write songs for myself.’ Joe had a four-track recorder and invited me to come over and work on songs together. Soon the 4-track turned into an 8-track and I could tell that things were getting serious.
My friend, David Rath, played drums on some tracks for us and really liked what we were doing, and he offered to manage us. It was Dave who later suggested we cut a CD, and he actually found the money for us to do that. And then, after our First of All album came out, he started getting us some gigs. When Garth Brooks came to Philadelphia to play six nights at the main arena in town, there was an offer for a band to set up outside the venue and play while people came in. And Dave ended up having drinks with the guy that was in charge of booking that, played him our CD, and got us all six nights. That started our journey. A couple years later we got a record deal with a small label in New York called Gotham Records and by that time I had put together the band that would eventually become Tractor Pull.
How did you come up with the name ‘Tractor Pull?’
I just thought it sounded funny. I was just trying to think of something that was white trashy, and I said we should call the album Tractor Pull. I think it was Dave that said, ‘No you should just call the band ‘Tractor Pull.’ I said ‘OK, whatever.’ Up until the time that the first record came out and then things started happening I was really on the fence about everything. I was just playing music that meant something to me and I was writing songs that I thought I would listen to. But … once First of All came out and things started to take shape, that’s when I got down to business and realized ‘This might go somewhere!’ It’s like, all of a sudden, my songwriting was becoming a viable craft. And I decided I wanted to take it to the next level, to see what I could really do. That’s why, in my opinion, my first album is really Dallas. That’s the one where I went, ‘Ah, I get this — I can do this and I can do it forever.’ Because it’s not like I was writing for a particular genre. There was no genre like that, at least not in my area, in New Jersey and Philadelphia.
Right, I can’t imagine a lot of people were doing that style of music there.
People thought I had a country band, and I was the farthest thing from a country band. I’m still not interested in country music; it just doesn’t do anything for me. But I take everything song by song, artist by artist. People will say, ‘Do you like Keith Urban?’ I’ll say, ‘I don’t know, but I like Radney Foster and he wrote a few hit songs for Keith Urban.’ Is Radney Foster country? I’d say no.
So anyway, Dallas was the turning point. We recorded First of All and then stopped for about two months and put the band Tractor Pull together and did some gigs. In the meantime I was really on a roll with my writing, so we just continued recording. I probably wrote and recorded without a break up until my Never Look Back album. That was the point where I slowed down. You know I had my heart attack after we finished recording it, and I was down for about three months and I probably didn’t write for another three months after that. There was a good six-month period when I wasn’t on the roller coaster. Then we began recording for what would eventually become Had Enough right before Joe left to move to Texas.
So your studio partner moved to Texas first?
Yes, he was here for about eight months before we moved down. We had made the decision that this is where we were going to go. In 2000, after Dallas was out, we came down to Texas and I met Mattson Rainer. After that, Texas was a tour stop at least twice a year.
Texas had always resonated; the people always really got it in Texas. In Philadelphia people would say ‘I don’t like country music but I like what you are doing.’ They still thought we were a country band. But when I came to Texas, the fans said, ‘You guys rock.’ I instantly went, ‘Ah, you guys get it; you know what I’m talking about.’
For those that don’t know the story about your heart attack, had you come down to play the Americana Jam then flew home to Jersey?
No, I was at SXSW in Austin and I stayed with Mattson for a week during SXSW. It was just Joe Carroll and I. Like I said before, once you get to the ‘Shake My Hand’ album, then there’s the ‘quote un-quote’ success. Not floating in money success, but definitely I got the accolades and my career was on an upward trajectory. I’m on the right path; I’m doing this thing that I find extremely easy to do. In the past I could come up with an albums worth of songs for whatever genre band I was in, but that would be it, there would be nothing beyond that. Now I had three albums under my belt. I was recording and playing, which was a dream come true for me.
Right and the music is coming easier. That had to make you feel like you were on track doing what you were meant to do.
Exactly, and there were plenty of things to do and plenty to do in the off hours when you aren’t making music.
So when you got home from SXSW were you feeling bad, did you realize something was going on?
No, I felt fine. My whole thing was I couldn’t get drunk. I was here for a week and I probably tied one on the first night I was here. Then after that I felt like the more I drank I just couldn’t get drunk, although I was, I didn’t feel it. We got on the plane to go home and I think officially the last drink I had was in Chicago O’Hare Airport. It was a triple Absolute and cranberry and I got off the plane and I was feeling really agitated and I only had one day off, then I was supposed to fly to France and cut a record with US Rail, which was a side project and another long story. I felt like I had indigestion and then long story short a couple hours later I’m dead. And after that everything changes, the fog goes away. I had plenty of time to sit there by myself. You know for three months I could barely get out of bed. It wasn’t an easy comeback let’s put it that way.
And you had to stop cold turkey, that’s gotta be hard.
No, it really wasn’t.
I would think it would be, or for me it would be anyway, but I guess if you have a heart attack and actually die and are brought back, it will really wake you up.
Well you know it probably would have been bad if I wasn’t so weak from the heart attack and operation. I was told that I couldn’t do anything for three months. I went from the bed to the couch and from the couch to the bed for three months and I had a lot of time to think about shit. The last thing I wanted was a drink, I just wanted to feel like a normal human being again.
Were you still smoking during this time?
No, I didn’t want anything to go back to what happened that night. The last thing I wanted to do was to jeopardize the fact that I didn’t die. All that stuff was out the window. I just made my mind up and said ‘ok you’re done.
After you recovered from the heart attack you had ‘Never Look Back’ done and then you released the live album. Did this buy you some time to write and record ‘Had Enough’ which you have called your first sober album?
Absolutely, for ‘Never Look Back’ there were a few vocals recorded after my heart attack, and we mixed it after the heart attack but for all intensive purposes, ‘Had Enough’ is the only record I’ve done that I was positively sober the whole time. Sometime it’s called ‘my comeback’ but I never really came back from anywhere, I was just on a nice trajectory. I still seem like I am, my main focus is just on Texas now. This is where I live; it’s where I want to play.
Now that you’ve been here awhile, where do you feel like you fit in with the Texas music scene?
What I do is Tom Gillam music, where I fit in, in Texas music, you got me? You know, Red Dirt people seem to like it; singer songwriter people seem to like it, so I’m lucky in that respect. I can play Austin; I can play New Braunfels and do equally as well. Again, I really don’t do anything to fit in anywhere. I don’t do any of this to please anybody but me, so when you listen to ‘Had Enough,’ and go ‘Oh I guess that was the single’ it wasn’t. It was just another song I wrote, or ‘He’s obviously going for this audience,’ I’m not; I’m just going for me. ‘Had Enough,’ ‘Never Look Back,’ ‘Shake My Hand,’ ‘Dallas’ and to some extent ‘First of All’ are albums that to me, if I were to sit down and listen to myself, which I do not, they were albums I made for someone to sit down and listen to forty-five minutes of music and go ‘Yeah, I really like that.’
Most successful artists will always say they have to please themselves first. If they try to please a certain market, they usually fail on many levels.
I do that, and I always have an eye afterwards on how am I gonna market it. We are our own entity, our own record company. I would be lying through my teeth if I didn’t say that when we are done with an album I didn’t look at it to see how I can sell it to people. Which is why a lot of thought goes into the cover, the order of the songs on the album, the flow and all that stuff. That’s just a smart business move. There’s no such thing as just being an artist anymore. You have to be 360, the whole package. I talked to Kevin Geil from Two Tons of Steel, they are an amazing band. Their merch sales are through the roof and they work out ways to do it. Cody Canada and those guys, you know it’s $20 to get in the show and then for another $20 you can get a USB wristband that basically gives you the concert that you just watched.
Willie Nelson does that too, it’s a great idea.
Yes, for the fans it’s just amazing, as a marketing technique it’s fucking brilliant. Marketing is very much a part of this job. You not only have to write the songs and perform them, you have to figure out a way to sell them in a market that 25 years ago all you worried about was getting some money from a record company. You put out an album and if you have a hit you made some money. I will be the last person to cry the blues, I’m glad the old system is gone. It makes it easier for guys like me to do the things that I want to do. When I was 20 years old the thought of making a record was so farfetched. Unless you had a big chunk of cash you couldn’t do it. So fast forward to my 30s, and for about $3,000 you can make a CD. Fast forward another 10 years and you can do it for $300. So it makes it a lot easier. Joe Carroll has always been the brains behind our viral marketing, he was the first one to say we needed a website. I didn’t even know what the Internet was. He was the first one to get us a MySpace page, and he set up a Facebook page for me while I was in Europe. The next thing you know, I’m on Facebook five times a day.
What’s next for you?
If everything goes on schedule, I’m looking at early 2011 for some new Tom Gillam music. I want to get started because the band I have here has really gelled in the last year and a half. It’s getting to be a real band as opposed to hired guns. The new music I’m writing will be much more organic. Of course this could all change in the next few weeks. We played some gigs with Band of Heathens, I really like them, and they’ve had an impact on me. So the new record will be a little more organic. I don’t know if it will be a Texas record but I live here now and I record here and I play here so I guess it will be a Texas record. I consider myself a Texas artist. The days that I was considered a Philadelphia artist ended when I put my furniture in my apartment in Austin. I never once looked back. I love everyone in Philadelphia but I don’t belong there, I belong here.
Galley Winter 4/09
*I wrote this review and several others for the latest issue of LonestarMusic Magazine. Pick up your copy today!
This album, Live, Somewhere in America: Play Loud…Dig Deep is the result of that road-dog mentality. Unlike many live projects, this one was recorded over many nights, not the standard one or two. You will find no overdubs on this disc, a fact that Gillam humorously and proudly attests to in the liner notes by stating “ …this is what it sounded like. We fixed none of our mistakes in the studio. Which might be a mistake.”
Don’t worry Tom, it was most definitely not a mistake. The energy and sound leaps out of the speakers on this live set. To give listeners unfamiliar with Tom’s music a baseline of what to expect, I’d compare it to Bob Seger belting out Americana tinged blues rock at some roadside dive in the Hill Country after arriving there on a Harley. This is aggressive alt-country rock. Normally, when I have to throw the rock tag on alt-country it can mean the lyrics are afterthoughts for the band I’m describing. That is not the case with this album or Gillam’s canon in general.
Cranked out by a flawless five piece band, the tunes on this album are strong examples of Americana at its best. Gillam’s voice is surprisingly spry and versatile. Like Clark Kent going into a phone booth, Gillam manages to change his performance style on each track depending on what is called for from his pen. This is a fun live record if you’re looking for something that will seem familiar yet fresh. 4/09
Issue #75 The Final Issue of No Depression
The writer,Grant Alden mentions Tom Gillam briefly. See Below (To see the complete article, go to http://archives.nodepression.com/issue/75/ )
"Anyhow. Last year the AMA gave Buddy a lifetime achievement award for his guitar playing. His younger sister works for Gibson — the company kind enough to provide the pieces and parts we turn into hand-crafted awards — and so we managed to get an unpainted guitar delivered to the illustrator Tim Shawl, who did a spectacular Howard Finster-esque folk art design on it. It was then lacquered and assembled and presented to Buddy onstage by his little sister, who refused to say a word but beamed the whole while.
Buddy mumbled something into the microphone and went back to his stool with the band.
A few weeks later, Buddy called to say thanks. I guess he knew I’d had a small hand in it, maybe he knew that I’m the one who gives Tim clues as to what images or words or ideas need to be conveyed on the awards.
I choked up. Nobody calls to say thanks, nor do I expect any. I think of myself as a tough bastard, but I’m not, especially not this week. And not then, either, apparently. And I said, very softly, “Buddy, you’re precious to me.”
I hadn’t really…known that, put it into words.
But he is. So are Jon Dee Graham and Steve Earle and Allison Moorer and Mike Ireland and Lizz Wright and Del McCoury and Mavis Staples. Alejandro Escovedo. Tom Gillam and Thao Nguyen, because they both want so badly they vibrate with want, and because they really are good enough. Hope Nunnery if she makes a couple more records as good as the debut she cut at 53. Some of whom I’ve met, some not. I don’t care about the meeting. I care…still…deeply…about the music they continue to make. About making art after it ceases to be easy to do so.
That’s not a complete list. It comes from the heart, and it’s not in order.
Maybe it’s out of order.
Make your own list. That’s what this is about.
Oh, yeah. First thing Buddy said when he sat down to talk: He used to be on that old AOL board. The one called “No Depression.”
There. That’s the beginning.
No Depression 12/07
Too busy singing to put anybody down
By David Menconi
Somewhere in New Jersey, there’s a hospital worker Tom Gillam wants to meet, because he owes this person his life. It was March 2006 and Gillam had just had his third heart attack. This one was so serious, it looked like he wasn’t going to make it.
“I was told after the fact that someone actually said, ‘Let’s call it,’” Gillam says. “But somebody else in the room — a doctor or nurse, I never found out who — said, ‘Let’s try again, I think he’s coming back.’ If I ever find that person, they’re getting the biggest kiss on the lips ever, because I was literally gone. But somebody said to try one more time.
“So I got a do-over,” he concludes with a laugh, “which you’ll be hearing about in many songs on the next few albums.”
Judging from Gillam’s new album, Never Look Back (Treehouse Productions), we’re as lucky as he is. Alternately pissed-off (”Another Break-Up Song”), exuberant (the title track) and mysterious (”Where Is Bobbie Gentry?”), Never Look Back is steeped in enough 1970s-vintage classic-rock verities to give the Hold Steady a run for their money. Imagine the great lost Joe Walsh album, with Tom Petty guitarist Mike Campbell pitching in on chiming leads and the vocal cast of Poco stopping by to lend background harmonies.
But if you ask Gillam about influences, inspirations and aspirations, a different set of reference points comes up.
“The two albums I’ve been trying to match ever since I started making records are Stephen Stills’ Manassas and especially the Monkees’ Headquarters,” he says. “Which is kind of geeky. Some people say, ‘Yep, Led Zeppelin changed my life.’ Or, ‘The first time I heard Dylan, man, that was it.’ With me, it’s, ‘The first time I heard the Monkees, I wanted to do that!’”
Gillam started out with a series of bands he’d just as soon not talk about now, playing “whatever the flavor of the month was,” he says. He gave up chasing record deals about a decade ago, hooking up with producer Joe Carroll (who also plays in Gillam’s backing band, Tractor Pull) for a series of excellent DIY releases.
“In the music business scheme of things, we’re doing zero-budget stuff,” Gillam says. “What Justin Timberlake’s dinner costs is about what we spent to do my record. A fraction of what gets spent on artists like that would do me just fine. But I’m not waiting around for some label to come knocking.”
Nothing on Never Look Back directly addresses Gillam’s brush with the great beyond, as the album was written and largely recorded before that happened. But a few songs’ vocals were cut afterward. Of particular note is the title track, written by Tractor Pull lead guitarist Craig Simon.
“I try not to read a lot into what I do or how I do it,” Gillam says. “But yeah, that song did take on a different meaning and perspective — singing about getting rid of old demons and moving forward. That’s my credo now. Who cares about what happened yesterday, it does not matter.”
Part of moving forward involves a health regimen. Gillam admits he “was not living an exemplary life” before his heart attacks. That changed while Gillam was in the hospital; he had a talk with his doctor, who told him he had to give up drugs, cigarettes and alcohol. A drinker since age 15, Gillam did not want to her that.
“The doctor said I was on so much Lipitor that if I drank, it would shred my liver in about six months,” Gillam says. “And also, the heart attacks would happen all over again, which is a picnic I don’t want to go to. So that was it for drinking, and it’s been great. Three months later, I was on my first sober tour of my life. I hate to sound all twelve-step program, but it’s something I should’ve done twenty years ago. I feel amazing.
“Coffee’s my last vice,” he concludes. “Well, that and cookies. Hey, I was the king of vices and now I’ve got to have something! ‘C’mon, honey, I’m not doing dope, just give me cookies! And make a pot of coffee!’”
No Depression 12/05
Often it seems the best practitioners of roots-rock are those who tread a line between solid songcraft and punkish abandon. By that measure, Tom Gillam ranks high indeed. Falling somewhere along a continuum that includes vintage country-rockers such as Poco and Nashville rebels such as Steve Earle, the New Jersey-based Gillam has a knack for injecting combustible energy into hooks and melodies evocative of classic country-pop.
Of the three full-length albums Gillam has released thus far, Shake My Hand is by far his most assured. Right from the start, on the crashing chords that introduce the blustery “Outside The Lines”, Gillam sounds like a man reveling in the knowledge that he’s hitting his stride as an artist. The main ingredients in his arsenal — walls of rhythm guitar, radio-friendly vocal harmonies, stinging slide work, and a rebellious spirit — are there in that opening salvo.
Other high points include the swamp-boogie-meets-pop “Take It Easy On Me” (think solo Joe Walsh, had Walsh been born on a bayou), the kiss-off swing tune “Your Parting Gift”, and a hard-as-nails rocker titled “One Step At A Time” that brings to mind John Hiatt at his most scruffy.
Shake My Hand owes much of its power to Gillam’s longtime backing band, the aptly-named Tractor Pull. In fact, Gillam’s weak spots are generally the ballads, where, without the band’s feisty interplay to propel him, he sometimes comes off as clichéd (both musically and lyrically). But such moments are few. For the most part, Shake My Hand finds Gillam assimilating his various influences into a rough-hewn, original fabric.
Various Press and Reviews
Sr. Director/Triple A
Friday Morning Quarterback 2/17/05
"Gillams sound will give the listener a good idea of how fun he and his band can be live. This is good-time music, while still giving a nod to concern. This disc is a definite winner for the party-hardy crowd." Reviewer: Matt Merta Twangcast.com
" Tom serves up a tasty brew of Americana country-rock that's anchored in classic 70s era southern/country rock influences that includes everyone from the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band to the Eagles to Skynyrd to the Allman Brothers and just about everyone in-between. He combines his skilled slide guitar work with touches of steel guitar, fiddle, mandolin and nicely done harmonies to deliver his well crafted self-penned songs"
"Tom Gillam possesses a warm, pleasing voice and while his songs show he's strongly influenced by the 70s era southern/country-rockers, he's most assuredly not an imitator nor is it the typical watered down sanitized version of the real thing Nashville's been offering up over the last decade or so. He's got a style of his own, with strong, well crafted songwriting. What really pushes Tom over the top is his excellent slide guitar work and the stellar musicianship of his backing band Tractor Pull"
-Shake My Hand Review
Take Country Back
"Soulful country rock, strong harmonies, ringing slide guitar. Michael Meehan. "Freight Train Boogie
TOM GILLAM DALLAS
"Gillam's rootsy brew is barroom-ready enough for those who remember GTB's paint-peeling Khyber and Silk City sets from back in the day, yet literary enough for those who prefer their twang tempered with WXPN sensitivity and politeness"
- - -PATRICK BERKERY from the philly weekly 4/20/01
" His songs are top-notch and he can bring it down for some nice country ballads too. This is rock label Gotham's first foray into the Americana format and I think they found a real winner in Gillam."
FROM FREIGHT TRAIN BOOGIE SHORT REVIEW Reviewed by Bill Frater.
"Slide guitarist Tom Gilliam fits that broad Americana segment occupied by everyone from Sonny Landreth to John Hiatt. His first national release is a listenable collection of swamp boogie songs filtered with a few slower crooners"
Reviewed By: John Brandon FROM ALT-COUNTRY
Rating: 3.5 STARS
" What might set this artist apart from the pack, however, is his songcraft -- most noticeable on the title track, which has just the right balance of guitar crunch, winning melody, and manly anguish. Dallas bears the influence of the long history of roots rock success stories, from The Flying Burrito Brothers to the Allman Brothers to Tom Petty to the Jayhawks It's wise to file this under highly likable"
- - - Erik Hage, All Music Guide