Tom Pacheco

Woodstock Winter

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Tom Pacheco is an incredibly interesting songwriter, with a Woody Guthrie-like vision of America combined with a sharp eye for detail that turns the best of his songs into something resembling tightly crafted little novels, a bit like a rootsier version of Harry Chapin. Woodstock Winter is arguably the most fully realized of Pacheco's albums, due in no small part to the presence of the second incarnation of the Band on these cuts, although unfortunately not as a complete unit on any one track. That doesn't stop this from sounding like a Band album, though, and several of these songs would have fit seamlessly into any of the group's albums. Produced by Jim Weider, and recorded at Levon Helm's converted barn studio, Woodstock Winter has a calm, laid-back warmth to it, and the unhurried pace is perfect for Pacheco's carefully realized tales. Highlights include the opening track, "The Hills of Woodstock" (which name-drops Albert Grossman and someone named Bob Dylan, among others), "Four Angels" (which uses the 1947 Roswell UFO incident as a backdrop), a song for the late Jerry Garcia, "Jerry's Gone," and an epic re-imagining of an outlaw's life, "Nobody Ever Killed Billy the Kid." The most striking and energetic track is undoubtedly "Hey Hey Robert Johnson," a remembrance of the legendary bluesman that is an instant classic. Pacheco is virtually unknown in the States (he is revered in Europe, where he has released several albums, including this one), which seems criminal, given his clear-eyed vision of America, one that is sharply political when necessary. Woodstock Winter strikes a nice balance between willful nostalgia and tightly observed detail, making it a perfect introduction to this unsung American treasure.

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