Tom Pacheco in the Press:
Tom Pacheco - Rebel Spring (Frog's Claw)
Whilst most singer songwriters have seen fit to add a post 9/11 meditation to their repertoire, few have nailed their colours to any opposition mast. And I'd include here many of those who went on the road in support of John Kerry. I'm not doubting their sincerity but if you've sold gazillions of albums and are so fabulously cushioned against any political outcome - well you can see where I'm heading, I hope.
If you're a troubadour like Tom Pacheco it's a different kettle of fish. For a start you have a vast back catalogue that makes your credentials quite clear and hitting the campaign trail for Kerry hits deep in the pocket. The other difference is here on his new album; his post 9/11, second Bush term missive is unequivocal.
His sleeve note offers a bleak analysis of the times we find ourselves in, noting that writing songs less bracing than these would have been "fiddling the light fantastic while Rome burned".
And what songs they are; the keynotes are the title track, a call to arms for us all to 'take our planet back' and a call to artists to paint 'new Guernicas' and to infuse a revolution into the 'DNA of the notes they play'. Bookending the album 'Not In My Name' is "one of those rare tunes which inspires people to join in on the chorus without being asked". It's true Woody or Seeger in nailing the misdeeds of the administration whilst, in its massed voices, it binds us together in a defiance ('You're President, Sir, you're not King') that breeds optimism.
There's little of the other side of Woody'n'Pete here; only 'Frieda's Secret Garden', a knockabout marijuana moment with a deeper hit at the demonisation of the versatile plant offers levity. There's warmth however in Pacheco's tale of 'Woody And Jack' and the self explanatory 'That's What Life Is'.
The bleakness, however, imbues 'North Dakota''s menace; the corporate exploitation of 'Six Bucks An Hour' and the future nightmare of 'The Last Drop' ('The Nesslee Corporation bought all the rivers up / They say some places water costs a hundred bucks a cup'). The rich contrast of America's cultural heritage and its present day fear driven disassembly is at the heart of 'Grandma's Blue Blanket' and the collapse of family underpins 'Uncle Joe'.
Far from being a lousy listen it's actually a rich musical journey; Tom's melodies - especially after a few listens - are wonderful and the production by The Band's Jim Weider is spot on. He uses his own armoury of tasteful guitar textures to lightly embroider the tracks which he underpins with double bass and occasional keyboard washes. And the doubling of Tom's rich, resonant vocals with the lighter approach of Meg Johnson on several tracks is inspired.
So, whilst Rebel Spring will not catapult Tom Pacheco from small audience club gigs to the Royal Albert Hall at fifty quid a seat, it's worth noting that whilst Mr. Springsteen does so by drawing on the inspiration of Guthrie, Seeger et al, Pacheco is the real thing, cut from the same cloth as those guys with the same dust on his boots and the same song in his heart.