Tommy Halloran – The Real Deal. (Album Review and Interview)

Tommy Halloran

The Real Deal.

Moan and Shout Review (includes free download)

Introduction:

My favorite Tommy Halloran story is one my wife* recounts regularly. Late at night at a local watering hole a slightly inebriated music lover approached Tommy and congratulated him on his set. As they began to talk, Tommy and this young man began to swap stories, Tommy, always in a good mood lent his ear to the young man. As the conversation ended the man said to Tommy, “Wow man, you must be so high right now, you’re just so groovy!” Tommy, replied, laughing, “Nah man, I’m not high, I’m just always like this.”

Tommy Halloran is a Saint Louis based musician who draws on a mix of rock and roll and blues to bend his crackly toffee covered voice over standards and his own songs. Tommy has recorded over 8 different records under various records in the past 20 years. He draws from a variety of musical influences from Louis Armstrong to Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 and Boogie Down Productions. An accomplished composer and song writer, Tommy’s work is complex, nuanced and has touches of grace as he envelops his audience in a sheen of touching, gentle lyrics and steady rhythms.

His most recent record, “Moan and Shout” (self released) is equally deserving of praise as any other playlist on your listening device. He describes the record “as an experiment in improvisation”. If this is the case, then I believe we need a new word for improvisation, one that is not associated with the rough, sophomoric experimentations that leaves us disappointed. What you find in Moan and Shout is a record that brings together many fine musicians (Matt Murdick on Keys, Adam Hucke, Trumpet, Tom Maloney on Bass, and Kari Liston and Leslie Sanazaro on backup vocals, for a full list of musicians see below) and while they may have not practiced together extensively, you wouldn’t know it. Each song is a treat, the sort of record you can both imagine listening to on the porch, slightly stifled from a Saint Louis July, or a blaring from the shot speakers from the impala with the windows rolled down. Some of my favorite tracks are: “You and See” the opening track, “White flowers bloom and I wait, blue flowers bloom and I wait.” Seems to set us up with the steady back and forth beat that any aficionado of Latin music, blended with steady blend. Check out the piano solos from Murdick and become embraced by the easy trumpet of Hucke, all the while Halloran cooes us to the end. “Gardenias for Rita,” I remember the first time I heard the song, my wife leaned over to me and said, ‘this is a New Orleans sound’ and there seemed to be a wisdom in the lyrics that mimics the perfection of the hardy southern flower. “The Days I’m Gonna Miss” you can hear the influence of Louis Armstrong, the be bop sound, the fun lyricism:

“Eat my breakfast, talking to the cat,

he don’t say too much, just sits where you sat

and stares me down like ‘I love bacon and eggs’

but I’m just cooking for one these days.

Out the door, I say goodbye to the fish

She raises a fin but I can see her wish

That you were still here on those long winter nights”

It is a great mark of song writing that allows the listener to take in the untold. We know without directly being told a bit about this story. The implied absence of a lover, the hilarity of the cat’s voice. Tommy seems to cull this while we await for the refrain, of the days we’re going to miss. All his songs are like this, they’re nuanced, patient, fun and revealing.

What I truly dig about Tommy Halloran is his accentuation of every syllable and the calm cadence of his voice that comes only with the aged wisdom of a storyteller. He seems, on some level, picky about his choices not only for his words but his arrangements are solid track after track. There is not one song on this album that I skip past. Lovers of music—listen up—Moan and Shout is waiting for you to fall in love with.

And get this, the best news about all of this is that Tommy’s record is available for free download. In his words: I never released the album commercially, instead I made it available for free download.

Enjoy Moan and Shout and support great music.

 

CD Download: http://www.reverbnation.com/artist/artist_songs/608121

 *Full disclosure my wife, Leslie Sanazaro, sang on multiple tracks of Tommy’s Moan and Shout record.

 

 

Interview with Tommy Halloran:

Tell us a briefly about yourself, where you grew up, etc.?

My name is Tommy Halloran. I grew up in house filled with the music of Ray Charles and The Preservation Hall Jazz Band in St. Louis, Miissouri.

When did you start playing guitar?

I picked up the guitar at 15. I saved up $100 and called my grandpa for a ride to the pawn shop to get a guitar. It was white and I loved it. My brothers and I all started playing about the same time–an inexplicable development to my parents, who don’t play a note.

How long have you been playing in St Lou?

Within a year of buying that guitar, I had written a dozen tunes and assembled a 9-piece ska band called graHm. We played all-ages clubs, parties, battles of the bands all through my junior year of high-school, and I have been doing it ever since.

I understand you come from a musical family? Tell me about that?

I have two brothers, John and Charlie. John plays the drums, and Charlie plays trombone. It was John who started playing first. A neighborhood kid taught him how to play, and year later I picked up the guitar (the same neighbor kid gave me my first lessons on the guitar!). I bought a trombone at another pawn shop for my dad because he loves the trombone, but he–save impeccable taste–doesn’t have a musical bone in his body. Charlie was in elementary school at this point, and joined the band on that $50 trombone. I had the good fortune to be in a band with both of my brothers–something I will always treasure. What I wouldn’t do to play with them both again! Charlie now lives in New Orleans–I think he’s the mayor. John and I still play together periodically. He’s my go-to when I really need a great drummer.

Is this your first album?

Moan & Shout is actually my 8-10th album, depending on your definition of album. Most of them have been lost to obscurity somewhere in the bottom of my closet, but some are still out there. In the late 1990′s I led a band called The Ambiguous “They”, which released a CD. Those are still floating around.

I understand you were an Americorps volunteer, tell me about it?

Like much of the country, I felt compelled to do something socially positive in the wake of 9/11, and I joined AmeriCorps. The two years I served with AmeriCorps were two of the best years of my life. I worked with middle-schoolers as a tutor/mentor, and I worked with the Emergency Response Team–we responded to Hurricane Lily in western Louisiana, and did a lot of conservation work in Missouri State Parks. Those experiences changed me in significant ways. I can’t recommend AmeriCorps highly enough. Really, any kind of service makes a mind well, I think.

Who is in your musical family tree?

I’ve got some pretty cool cats hanging on the branches of my musical family tree. My parents are early boomers, and turned away from popular music when The Beatles issued SGT Peppers. So, the music I learned to love as a kid was that of Louis Armstrong, Preservation Hall, Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66, The Clancy Brothers, and other music deemed square in the 1960′s and 70′s. I also have two older sisters who were rebellious teenagers in the 80′s–enter The Dead Milkmen, The Cure, Duran Duran, and Boogie Down Productions–rap was my first musical love. In fact, in middle school I led a rap band that recorded two of those lost albums. ( I was MC Q.)

Tell me a story about this album or one or the songs?

Moan & Shout is really an experiment in improvisation. Most of the musicians had never met before converging on the studio, and none of them knew the material. I haphazardly drew up charts for them, and we recorded most everything in one or two takes. Consequently, the album has the kind of “character” that gets edited out of most modern records. In the end, I think it’s a testament to the talent here in St. Louis. The making of this album really confirmed, solidified, and magnified my love for this town and her people.

Why must we moan and shout?

Although it has caused great difficulty in my life, I can’t hide my emotions. I moan. I shout. I live and love with reckless abandon. I think we all have this within us but are bottled up by convention and anesthetized by television and radio. Really, this stuff is carefully planned and flawlessly executed and wholly unrepresentative of anything resembling life as I know it. I prefer a world in which we people–most of us raw nerves–feel free to moan & shout.

 ALBUM INFORMATION

Moan & Shout
All songs by Tommy Halloran

track 1: You & Soon.
Tommy – guitar & vocals
Matt Murdick – piano
Tom Maloney – bass guitar
Kari Liston – percussion
Adam Hucke – trumpet
Louis Goldford – saxophone
*horn part composed/arranged by Matt Murdick

track 2: Let’s Get The Heck Outta Town
Tommy – guitar & vocals
Jeremy Pfeffer – bass
Matt Murdick – piano
Sharon Foehner – guitar

track 3: Moan & Shout
Tommy – guitar & vocals
Tom Maloney – bass guitar & electric guitar
Eric McSpadden – harmonica
Leslie Sanazaro-Santi – vocals (I think she is on this track?)
Kari Liston – vocals
John Halloran – the drums

track 4: Gardenias For Rita
Tommy – guitar & vocals
Tom Maloney – bass guitar
Adam Hucke – Trumpet

track 5: The Days I’m Gonna Miss
Tommy – guitar & vocals
Matt Murdick – piano

Jeremy Pfeffer – bass

Sharon Foehner – guitar
Colin Blair – fiddle
Leslie Sanazaro-Santi – vocals
Kari Liston – vocals

track 6: Let It Rain
Tommy – guitar & vocals
Matt Murdick – piano
Tom Maloney – bass
Jeremy Segel-Moss – harmonica
Leslie Sanazaro-Santi – vocals
Kari Liston – vocals & tambourine
Adam Hucke – trumpet
Charlie Halloran – trombone
Louis Goldford – saxophone

track 7: Under The Catalpa Trees
Tommy – guitar & vocals
Matt Murdick – piano
Tom Maloney – bass guitar
John Halloran – the drums

track 8: In The Cool of The Pines
Tommy – guitar & vocals
Matt Murdick – piano
Tom Maloney – bass guitar
Leslie Sanazaro-Santi – vocals
Kari Liston – percussion & vocals (I think she sang)
Charlie Halloran – trombone
Louis Goldford – saxophone
Adam Hucke – trumpet

track 9: Bring Back My You
Tommy – guitar & vocals
Matt Murdick – piano
Adam Hucke – trumpet

track 10: Easiest Thing In The World
Tommy – guitar & vocals & claps
Matt Murdick – piano
Leslie Sanazaro-Santi – vocals & claps
Kari Liston – vocals & claps
Patrick Crecelius – vocals & claps
Tom Maloney – bass guitar

The album was recorded and mixed by Patrick Crecelius at Cedar Box Studio–at the time located in Patrick’s 2nd floor apartment.  The bulk of the album was tracked in just a few sessions.  There were no rehearsals.  None of the musicians knew the tunes, and many had never met prior to the recording dates.  I simply put charts in front of them, and what you hear is what we laid down in the first couple tries.

CD Download: http://www.reverbnation.com/artist/artist_songs/608121