Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Tommy Womack - NAMASTE

I can say unequivocally, without hesitation, with favorable bias, and with complete transparency that I am a Tommy Womack fan (web | Twitter). For dang near 30 years, I've listened to his music repeatedly - first as a member of Government Cheese, then (and now) as a solo artist, and in his other bands such as The Bis-Quits and Daddy.

Tommy's songs aren't generally ones you'll crank at an outdoor, tailgate, societal type of soiree. Though if you and your pals are long-time Cheese fans, you can probably still rock Camping On Acid and Fish Stick Day for the masses. Otherwise, I generally advise folks to absorb Tommy's lyrics like a topical ointment - frequent application with slow but predictable and steady results.

In the Cheese days, I drank a lot of beer, laughed a ton, tried to make a move on the gal I eventually married, and talked throughout the shows. In Womack's post-Cheese career, I don't do any of those - at least to an excess.

Those who know me best know I like to talk. A lot. I'm not the best listener - never have been, likely never will be. Yet for whatever reason, Tommy Womack can alter my natural inclinations. I listen to his lyrics intently.
  • I do still laugh along with lyrics to many of his songs. 
  • Some of his songs have made me - and still do - tear up a bit. (Don't believe me? Listen to Willie Perdue 3x, and we'll meet over an uncut onion to see who is really real.) 
  • Some have made me say with relief Whew, glad I've met him, but I'm damn glad I live MY life.
  • Some have dropped my jaw and made me ask How in the world man...., and long to give him a comforting hug.
Womack's latest album NAMASTE delivers a bit of all of the above. The album has a true arc of intensity. Near its beginning and end are are songs about hair and hot flashes. In the middle sits a couple of songs with messages as thick as a Carnegie Deli sammich.

After the album's opener Angel, Tommy jumps right in the humor with both feet with Combover Blues. I'm not there - yet - but many men of similar age will likely relate and commiserate.

As a complementary track, Womack again offers up a healthy dose of humor - this time for his female listeners. Hot Flash Woman is the second to last song on the album.

As Combover Blues ends, Womack takes the tone up a notch with two back-to-back serious but enjoyable songs: End of the Line and It's Been All Over Before. For those familiar with his discography, the two songs remind me a bit of If That's All There Is To See and She Likes To Talk from his previous albums, There, I Said It! and Stubborn, respectively.

NAMASTE then hits its apex of relevance at the middle of the album.

I first heard God Part 3 a couple of years ago during an in-the-round, songwriter's evening at a now-departed West Nashville bar. After I re-hinged my jaw, I've been looking forward since that evening to hearing it as an officially released song. On the recorded version, Womack is backed with a rhythm section with a sound similar to the Tennessee Three - an appropriate sound considering Johnny Cash was another songwriter and performer who tussled regularly with his beliefs.

Back around 2007, I was at The Basement on 8th Avenue in Nashville for Tommy's record release show of  There, I Said It. The album was (and still is) incredible. He'd just been featured on the cover of the Nashville Scene, he was sporting an out of the ordinary beard, his voice was hoarse ... and he hugged me as he came into the place that night. I recall greeting him and offering him a handshake with congrats. He gave me a hug instead. That was fine and all, but I did chuckle in surprise. Only recently did I - and others - learn he had hit a wall about a week earlier. Badly. Little did we know...

Out of that experience followed I Almost Died. Musically, the song is an enjoyable listen. The transparency and pain of the autobiographical lyrics, however, makes it very challenging to absorb.

After the listener is left clearing his or her throat, rubbing his knee caps and looking around the room, Tommy does return you to the comfort of your couch and a good laugh with When Country Singers Were Ugly and the aforementioned Hot Flash Woman.

He then combines humor and sarcasm in the shaken-AND-stirred, jazzy, spoken-word commentary Nashville. Not a lot to watch here - just listen, visualize Music City, cringe and laugh.

NAMASTE will be available far and wide for sale beginning this Friday, June 24, through just about every conceivable channel. I recommend it at whatever max metric floats your boat.