I've known Tom, a songwriter/singer/guitarist who lives in Peters Township, for the better part of a decade now, and I always enjoy hearing him play. And I'm particularly impressed by his ability to work up a good tune that clicks with focused lyrics and some catchy hooks. He has plenty of those in his catalog.
Last year, I caught up with him just as he was finishing a project called "Guitar and Pen, Vol. 2," a collection of songs he'd written but hadn't recorded to date. The disc represented his first efforts at recording in his own studio, and the effort shows he's mastered yet another step in the music-making process.
For 2006, he's taken his studio expertise to the next level with "Time to Roll," the new album by Tom Breiding & American Son.
"This is the first band record I've done," he says, "and the first opportunity I have to support the record with live shows that are indicative of what's on the record.
His bandmates in American Son are guys he played with in his native Wheeling during his formative years in the '80s: guitarist Jeff Stevens, bass player Pit Mozena and drummer Chris Moore. They've been working since last spring on the new songs, most of which were written specifically for "Time to Roll."
The one exception "Ain't No Quittin' Side of Me," which was on hold while it was under consideration for use in "Fields of Freedom," a film about the Battle of Gettysburg. Tom tells us what happened with that deal in another song, "The Music Plays On":
"Thirty-six dollars to Hollywood, overnight/Producer says, 'Yeah, man, this song's just right!'/Two months later, I'm sleepin' on the floor/He calls to say they found a giant to write the whole score."
The song's lyrics also are one of two sources for the album's title. The phrase also appears in "Manifold Road," a car-based metaphor that's named for the street intersecting with Route 19 near Washington.
Another of the album's highlights is "What I Wouldn't Do," which opens with an intriguing echo effect on Tom's vocals, with a guitar played through a Leslie-speaker filter as the focal point of instrumentation. The song serves as further proof that Tom's expertise extends to production work along with his other skills.
As he's done with previous releases, Tom worked with Wheeling studio whiz Jamie Peck, who worked on the mastering and played synthesizer on "Ain't No Quittin' Side of Me." Also making an appearance is Bill Toms on "My Martha," which develops into a substantial guitar workout.
"Martha" is reminiscent of the work Tom has done with Bill's band, Hard Rain. That group's latest album, "The West End Kid," has fared well since its release last fall, hitting No. 100 on the Americana Chart.
The release show for "Time to Roll" is scheduled for April 29 at Cefalo's in Carnegie. Opening will be Bill Toms & Hard Rain, along with Kick Start (Jeff, Pit and Chris with their buddy John Kirchner).
A CD release party is set for May 12 at Moondog's in Blawnox, also featuring a performance by Norman Nardini.
Other Tom Breiding & American Son shows are with Joe D'Urso & Stone Caravan, on June 9 in Morgantown, W.Va., and June 10 at the Rhythm House in Bridgeville.
And Tom continues to play his Saturday afternoon acoustic shows with Bill Toms at Leaf & Bean in the Strip District. It's time to roll over there to hear some fantastic music.
SOUND FILES: Check out clips from some of Tom's songs.
No Bad Ju Ju
Doing it write
Now's the Tyme
Year in photos 1
Year in photos 2
Year in photos 3
Year in photos 4