Tom McFarland

Travelin' with the Blues

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Tom McFarland was a blues fixture in the Pacific Northwest and the Bay Area until his death in 2004. So it's perhaps apt that this CD reissue of his first album, recorded in 1978, now finds its way out. That he was a devotee of B.B. King is apparent in the way he uses his guitar to punctuate and accentuate lines, although throughout he chooses a much more brittle tone. And the West Coast attitude is apparent in the sense of easy swing in the original songs, backed by bass and drums -- nothing ever plods. There's an ebullience to McFarland's singing, nowhere more than on the bonus cut "Tom's Boogie" (one of three extra tracks here), which comes as close to driving along as anything on the disc. His tales of ordinary life, be they about prostitutes or simply trying to make ends meet as a musician, are reassuringly warm, while his signature piece, "Going Back to Oakland," has a real sense of stature. While not a major performer, there's still plenty to his work. Nothing is tossed off or haphazard; there's a real regard for the blues

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