I’ve been catching up on my interests in Country music over the past few months and listening to a lot of new releases like The Felice Brothers, O’Death and the best of last year’s albums with Octoberman...However, none of these commercially available albums can compare to the impact that has been made on me by 15 tracks I downloaded from Tom Leach’s webpage... They just get better every time I listen to them...
Tom Leach mines some pretty dark territory, and does so with a kudzu-ravaged throat and kitchen sink production. A sense of late-night loneliness permeates his songs, the last to leave the bar at night and the first to arrive at opening time. He'll tell you all the reasons she done him wrong, and he'll tell you why he still shows up at her doorstep day after day, court order be damned.
It's been 9 years between Leach's last album and his newest offering, Seven Song Tape/Thank You For The Coffee. In the in between years, his previous album, "Tom Leach" was never far from my record player. Both albums are a gospel of sorrow and desperation, with obvious nods to Cash, Lefty, and Merle at their most down and out, the gospel of downtrodden.
Leach is a masterful songwriter in a minor key, plundering the Country lexicon, throwing out the sentimental, and turning the expected phrase into something all his own.
Tom Leach might be heavily rooted in the country style of Johnny Cash and Hank Williams, but he has managed to work influences to some beloved folk singers, like Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, into his music. Leach’s “7 Song Tape/Thank You For The Coffee” is lo-fi country music that places the focus squarely on his expressive vocals as they are backed, generally, by acoustic guitar. The beauty of “7 Song Tape” lies in the simple and understated melodies and songwriting that Leach uses.
Tom Leach "Thank You For The Coffee" (Independent 2006)
Promising little sketchbook that could go either way
Georgia-bred songwriter Tom Leach has already released two albums and one single (a duet with Vic Chestnutt) on former Rykodisc imprint Slow River but this little 7 track affair is effectively a rough demo, presumably a sketchbook for what’s to follow. Recorded on a 4 track cassette over a couple of hours with no second takes, these songs are raggedly lo-fi but all the better for it. Leach’s vocals vary so wildly that it’s hard to believe the confidant gospel tenor of ‘I Remember a Little Old Town’ and the vulnerable hillbilly warbling of ‘Go On Home’ belong to the same man. Johnny Cash and the 60’s folk circuit are obviously major influences here but Leach is no imitator and, despite the lo-fi recordings (or, perhaps, because of it) there is something undeniably authentic and inspired at work here. As with most demos, there is a ‘work-in-progress’ feeling to these songs and the quality varies but, at the heart of it is a refreshingly unassuming, unaffected storyteller without a hint of pastiche and, on those grounds alone, Leach shows some serious promise. The crucial choice of producer and the sort of studio treatment these songs eventually get will determine how brilliant or bland this songwriter becomes.
...Make no mistake, this is pure down-home, back-roots music. It is not a mixture of neo-psychedelic folk trance, with a little euro-pop thrown in. Leach is reminiscent of the country greats: Cash, Williams, Haggard. Combining masterfully crafted lyrics with the faithful backing of a guitar, Leach provides the perfect opportunity to dust off your boots and ten gallon hat, and get to know your country side. Trust me, you won't regret it.
Tom Leach is one of musical heroes. He wrote and sang one of my favourite songs ever (he was featured in my Drowning In A Well series). I hadn't heard of him for a long while until there he was on MySpace and with a new CD as well.
He isn't Alt-Country, he is Country - not in the Nashville sense of show business and sequins but in the sense of the simple, direct, and honest music that is America's own. He doesn't need a fancy studio or guest performers - just a guitar, harmonica, four-track, and a few songs.
He often sings little bar conversations and vignettes of everyday life. Songs like At The Bottom Of A Barroom On A Hill In Tennessee where a man sees how low he has come and decides to turn his life around. Thank You For The Coffee is just two people in a cafe during a storm who get talking and find they can open up to each other.
His voice betrays the fact that he has lived, tasted both disappointment and love. Listen to the pathos of #04 (Go On Home) and try telling me that this isn't someone revealing his inner self in all of its rawness. Tom Leach has a voice that cracks with emotion, resonates with passion, and always with a strangely familiar ring like it's a friend talking to you. If you have enjoyed The Handsome Family, then you will be ready to go deeper into America's heartland and get to know Tom Leach.
Tom Leach printed the cover of 7 Song Tape/Thank You For The Coffee by himself, with a stamp. Recorded on a 4 track. It not only looks like a demo, it sounds like a demo. Just as intended. This is going to be something more one day, a real album. Could be, but why? The quality of the songs would justify it but its fine just the way it is. It looks and sounds like a little secret and that arouses a certain tension…
This is pure, this is real, and this matters. Leach can sound like a country crooner from 70's but also like a dying outlaw or gospel-singing Elvis…
Tom Leach writes serious songs without 21st century cynicism. The title number knows the charm of the old days, and the innocence. Customer and waitress flirting with talk and simply being nice to each other, more is not there. That’s perfect. Illustrative of the way Leach handles the themes, what you hear is what you get. 7 beautiful songs in a hamper sleeve with stamped track list and the credits on a sticker. You can look for hidden messages and inside jokes but there aren’t any. Bless him for doing it this way.
7 Song Tape/Thank You For the Coffee, 2006
Call it D.I.Y. country. Leach, a New York City resident and Georgia native, recorded these seven beauties on a four-track cassette, hand-stamped the retro cover art and released the EP himself. He says the effort is rough preview of a longer "Phases and Stages" inspired song cycle called "Macon, Georgia" that he hopes to put out eventually.
The songs are mostly quiet and reflective, wonderfully brought to life by Leach's subtlety passionate vocals. Leach shoots small in his songwriting and succeeds with carefully rendered story-songs such as "At the Bottom of a Barroom on a Hill in Tennessee" and "Thank You For the Coffee" that bring the listener into their worlds.
TOM LEACH in some ways is reminiscent of Red-Headed Stranger Willie. He doesn’t remind us of Willie, but he does have that wistful, heartfelt lonely desperation that Red Headed Stranger does to us on the best of days. He’s probably breaking hearts in New York City but he would certainly fit right in down here in Texas or anywhere else where brilliant music and writing is awarded with appreciation and accolades
It’s been too long since Tom Leach last played live, but here’s the payoff: The incredibly talented local tunesmith’s been busy writing new songs, and like all of his other ones, his latest batch, 7 Song Tape/Thank You for the Coffee, could make even Johnny Cash and Hank Williams cry. Don’t miss this show: Leach has a heart as big as the moon and a voice that could melt glass.
Tom Leach made a remarkable debut record in 1997, on which he addressed loneliness in a spine chilling way. “My confidence is gone” were the first words he sang. On the disc, which was released by Slow River/Rykodisc, he reminded me of the likes of Johnny Cash and Alexander Spence. The bare twang and spatial sound made me think that Tom Leach was inspired by “Oar”, just as remarkable as brilliant an album of Alexander Spence, made in 1968, after Skip Spence left Moby Grape. After his debut which few people noticed Tom Leach released a Live recording and a single with Vic Chesnutt and The Starroom Boys. We did not hear from him for a long time until now. His new EP takes off where his earlier recordings ended. By the way, the ep is an introduction to the Macon, Georgia project, which consists of 40 newly recorded songs. Leach wants to record these songs with other musicians in a more professional way. He hopes this will result in a double cd. Altcountry will keep following him. This short EP of 24 minutes is too short for a long appraisal but it is a welcome sign that Tom is still in the running.
FFG: What made you want to play music?
FFG: What was it like after you had written your 1st song?
TL: I felt self-indulgent.
FFG: are you a fan of monster movies? if so, what are your favorites? If not, what is your favorite documentary movie?
TL: Im a fan of horror movies- Italian/giallo, zombie, Japanese, low budget seventies, found on DVD at the dollar store, Hammer Studios, Romero, Argento: Deep Red, Dont Torture A Duckling, Audition, God Told Me To, Rabid, Zombi 2, Last House On The Left, Schock, Dont Look Now, Texas Chainsaw, Suspiria, The Brood, Suicide Club, Embryo. My favorite monster movie would have to be Larry Cohens Q: winged serpant lives inside the Chrysler Building. Favorite documentary: Dont Look Back.
FFG: What has been the best place to play a show & why was that?
TL: The Plough and Stars, Cambridge, MA is my favorite venue of all time because theres no stage, no worries, and I dont feel used.
FFG: Do you remember the 1st hip hop song you had ever heard? How did you like it? What did it make you think?
TL:Probably something by Kurtis Blow? I dont know from hip hop.
Eight Country CDs Im Listening To Right Now In No Particular Order*
1. Waylon Jennings: Waylon Live The Expanded Edition
Blueprint for knowing what youre doing and what youve done. Waylon at his prime, the Waymors are amazing. Nothing sounds as good as this. The live record for one who dislikes live records. Do not settle for less than the 42 track double cd version. Trust me.
2. Kris Kristofferson: The Silver Tounged Devil and I
Travis Bickel got this as a gift on his date with the campaign worker before they went to the porn movie. Lovin Her Was Easier Than Anything Ill Ever Do Again. Leonard Cohen with jeans on. Youll forget the Blade movies.
3. Johnny Paycheck: The Real Mr. Heartache
George Jones says the guy taught him how to sing. George Jones never sang Pardon Me, Ive Got Someone to Kill. Irony-free.
4. Connie Smith: Connie Smith/Cute and Country
Her first two records from 1965, one cd. The only time I wish you werent gone is once a day, every day, all day long. Sounds from the studio that simply cant be replicated today, great voice and pedal steel. Best of all, shell never reach icon status.
5. .Freddie Hart: Juke Joint Boogie
Dont go for things with juke, joint, or boogie in the title, but. 53-59, sides cut under Ken Nelson (Capitol), and Don Law (Columbia). This guy didnt have a hit till the seventies (Easy Lovin). Drink Up And Go Home, The Keys In The Mailbox, Blue, My Last Dime. A voice to admire.
6. Eddy Arnold: The Early Hits Of The Tennessee Playboy
I Couldnt Believe It Was True and lots of others like it. Not his country-politan shit.
7. Gene Watson: Because You Believed In Me & Beautiful Country
Because You Believed In Me the better of the two albums. Let it play till track 10, then start skipping. Bitter They Are, Harder They Fall, Larry Gatlins finest (only) song. Best on Beautiful Country would be Cowboys Dont Get Lucky All The Time. Her Body Couldnt Keep You Off MY Mind is especially warm.
8. Carl Smith: The Sixties Hits Of Carl Smith
Having memorized The Essential Carl Smith(fifties hits), Ive moved on. Kisses Never Lie, You Better Be Better To Me, Triangle. Solid honky-tonk in stereo with some listenable duds.
*Two More I Never Stop Listening To
Roger Miller: King of the Road: The Genius of Roger Miller
Three discs. Always in rotation. Much more than You Cant Rollerskate in a Buffalo Herd. Try Husbands and Wives, Absence, or A World So Full of Love. Skip to end of disc two, to the fadeout of Pardon This Coffin. Let play, unlisted ten minutes of studio outtake fascinates. Also: My Uncle Used To Love Me But She Died.
Don Williams: 12 Greatest Hits
The real deal: Come Early Morning, Amanda, Atta Way To Go, Shes In Love With A Rodeo Man, Down The Road I Go, The Shelter Of Your Eyes, We Should Be Together, I Wouldnt Want To Live If You Didnt Love Me, The Ties That Bind, Ghost Story, Dont You Believe, I Recall A Gypsy Woman. Find all these songs if you cant find this and you will have a satisfied mind.
Go to link for nice pictures
"tom leach has all the twangsome quaver of the man in black"
"there's a wry, rugged resilience in leach's songs...(that gets) to the essence of old school country music"
- Sunday Times London
"leach's johnny cash growl and starkly rendered accoustic viginettes bear all the hallmarks of a
classic songwriting talent"
"needs only a drug problem to become a critically acclaimed cult"
- No Depression
about the album 'tom leach' there is a "mercurial quality"..."it's a vivid snapshot of a lonely soul"
TOM LEACH: Tom Leach
Tom Leach's debut release sounds as if it's coming from a long way away, a distant, intricate jewel box that is too far away to make out distinctly, but is entrancing nonetheless. The album was recorded at his home on a friend's borrowed equipment, allowing Leach to take the lo-fi aesthetic back to its roots, rendering him a simple singer-songwriter spinning out his tales of life's little heartaches. In both sound and lyrical consent, Leach's songs hearken back to the early days of country, when Hank Williams, Sr., Johnny Cash and other weary ramblers just wanted to get a hot meal by playing their tunes. Leach's voice is low and rumbly, perfectly suited to singing about his life with Doris Day ("Doris Days") or a pass love ("Yesterday's News"). His guitar accompaniment, while not complex, is intriguing enough to achieve more than simple strumming, his plucking another friend upon whose shoulder he can cry. Leach's debut is a quiet delight, a lovely, simple record that reaches out to anyone who's ever had a heartache. Listen to the above, plus "Ice Below You" and the very traditional sounding "Mr. Hang Up The Phone."
- Village Voice
".Simply stated: Tom Leach is incredible, one of the most naturally gifted songwriters I've ever heard in my life. He's got as much heart as Johnny Cash and more soul than Roy Orbison, and if his vocals don't bring you to the verge of tears, you just might need to question your humanity."
"tom leach writes classic songs...remarkable"
- Wall Street Journal
"if only the revival meetings i sat through as a teenager had sounded like that(tom leach live), i too might have run down to the front to be born again"
- The Herald- Edinburg, Scotland
"he can always turn his thoughts into songs after the hank and woody schools, simple little things on the face of it, but as full of images as they are of pain, and with the occasionally wicked twists...listening to leach's careworn voice...scenes from umpteen movies, from the last picture show onwards, flick before the mind's eye"
"comes from the same trailer park as vic chestnutt. voyeuristic, but fun."
- Boston Globe
"mixes sadness and a gentle uplift...also possesses a keen pop sensibility reminiscent of nick lowe"
"every musical generation spawns an original, an artist so completely out of step with his peers that no previous yardstick is applicable...tom leach is being viewed as this generation's....(tl live w/band) is a ...marvel of raw performance and verve" (more...)
- Real Groove
"roger miller would be proud"
- Stuff at Night
"('tom leach with band: recorded live in person') is a...shotgun marrige of vintage country and western and sun records-era rock and roll. think johnny cash playing the cavern club with social distortion after pulling an all-nighter as a stowaway on a railroad car"