Tom Heyman

Deliver Me

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Guitarist Tom Heyman has amassed a pretty hefty résumé as a sideman (Alejandro Escovedo, John Vanderslice, Mark Eitzel) and as a bandmember (Go to Blazes, Marah, Map of Wyoming), but Deliver Me is only his second recording as a solo artist. Released on San Francisco's Jackpine Social Club label, Deliver Me is a woolly mix of folk (à la Tom Rush, Tim Buckley, and Fred Neil), gritty roots rock, blues, and even solid white boy R&B. Heyman has a slew of pals playing on this, including Wilco's John Stirratt, Chuck Prophet, and Eitzel. None of that stuff really matters, though, because Deliver Me stands and falls on its own due to Heyman's abilities as a songwriter and producer (he sat alongside Sean Coleman for this set). Mostly, Deliver Me sounds like a relic, something held over and unearthed from either the folk revival as it entered the 1960s or from the barroom rock era of the late '60s and early '70s. And it is drenched in the feel of San Francisco. It's laid-back, although it carries real tension in some of its song, and it feels good even when the tunes are sad, dour, or angry. The gems here are plentiful. The opener, "Alright," is a folksy country love song that stands tall in its realist optimism and contains a catchall chorus sung by a small backing group amidst the wandering and ringing guitars. The snaky "Monkey Out of Me" has to be a bandstand favorite. It sounds like something off a Tom Waits record from the Heartattack and Vine era. It's a broken love song tempered by a boozy swagger. Heyman is a fine storyteller as well, as evidenced by the rocking folksy blues of "Crazy Ray," the tale of a lost soul who stands out in the crowd because he stands out of time and place and has no idea. The cover of "Milk Cow Blues" feels unnecessary and would have made the record a bit shorter. However, Heyman's read of Ike Turner's "You Got What You Wanted" turns its guttersnipe R&B into something else altogether without losing the original's bite and slow-burning fire. The set closes with "Listen to the Rain," a love song with backbone. It's simple and understated yet masculine and tough. The Wurlitzer growls under the mix as Heyman's blend of guitars and pedal steel slowly unfurls the tune, letting it ease out into the open without artifice or guile. Ultimately, this is a wildly diverse effort. It contains a rainbow of emotions, colors, and hues. Heyman's not the greatest lyricist in the world, but he's growing by leaps and bounds, and his song structures are beguiling and well developed. Deliver Me is a keeper.

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