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Tommy Malone - The CD you hold in your hand is an important contribution to Louisiana music history. Tommy Malone is not only one of the greatest songwriters of his generation, he’s a superb guitarist and a magnificent vocalist who animates every corner of his compositions. He is also a perfectionist, which is why we’ve had to wait 12 years for him to release the follow-up to his acclaimed first solo album, Soul Heavy.
Malone, like so many legendary Louisiana musicians, grew up in a family of players who exposed him to every type of American roots music as well as the innovations of British rockers who turned classic R&B, blues and country music into gold. Over the past 40 years Malone has been at the center of some of the most storied and often star-crossed bands in Louisiana history, beginning with the family band formed with two of his brothers, Dustwoofie. Malone fronted the Cartoons opposite the infamously great R&B blues vocalist Becky Kury. He then backed another notorious New Orleans soul diva, Leigh “L’il Queenie” Harris. Malone went on to help develop the eccentric songwriters’ collective the Continental Drifters before becoming a charter member of the still-beloved subdudes. Along the way he played in the well regarded one-off groups Tiny Town and Monkey Ranch as well as in a duo with his older brother Dave from the Radiators, the Malone Brothers.
Tommy Malone tracks one man’s journey through life, suffering through hard times from hurricanes to heartbreak but always finding a way to keep on keeping on. Malone’s songs alternately offer masterful psychological insight, a bulwark against troubles and a lighthearted sense of wonder, all sculpted by his remarkable voice and steadied by an intricate array of guitar textures, rhythmic foundations, fills and solos, from Travis-picking country to deep south electric slide. His writing reveals the same strain of southern R&B that informed such genius songsmiths as Bobby Charles and Dan Penn.
The first words you hear on the record, “My car broke down on the side of
the road,” prepare you for a long journey, but by the end of the
album-opening “Hope Diner” Malone’s expressive voice is assuring the
listener “Make your move/ don’t think twice/ everything’s gonna be all
In “Home” Malone celebrates the sensual beauty of the Louisiana turf he returned to after the trials of Katrina. “Five long years since I’ve been away,” he explains. “After the storm I just couldn’t stay.” After ruminating about the reasons for such tragedy in “God Knows – Just Ain’t Talkin’,” Malone rides the happy-go-lucky vibe of Jon Cleary’s organ through the sprightly “Wake Up Time,” then broods on the ironies of love in “Distance.” “It was distance that brought us together,” he sings in one of the album’s finest vocal performances. “It was distance that kept us apart.” Malone explores love’s labyrinths further on the spooky “Didn’t Want To Hear It” and the moody, unresolved ballad “Word On the Street.”
But Malone leaves plenty of room for redemption, finally tossing off love’s yoke in the exhilarating “Life Goes On” and expressing untrammeled optimism in “No Reason” and the rollicking country funk hoedown “Natural Born Days.”
Tommy Malone leaves no emotional stone unturned. It’s the work of a true
artist who took the time to get it right.