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Tom Heyman (from the album 24th Street Blues available on Bohemian Neglect Recording Works) (by Lee Zimmerman)
A concept album about the endangered culture and living ghosts of San Francisco’s Mission District, Tom Heyman’s new album — and sixth solo effort to date — 24th Street Blues, negates the notion that San Francisco is an idyllic community populated by rich tech workers who can’t get their fill of costly artisanal coffee. Rather, he paints a portrait of a city on the precipice of the new American normal, one that finds inspiration in change while still trying to capture some sense of normalcy in the midst of it all.
Heyman can relate to it all from a personal perspective. For the past two decades, he and his wife have made their home in a dilapidated converted-storefront rental on 24th Street in the heart of the city’s Mission district. Consequently, the songs that occupy 24th Street Blues are filled with narratives about a disparate populace that also call the area home. He sets their saga in mostly sparse acoustic settings, creating what can loosely be referred to as a concept album that details the observations and interactions Heyman experiences in his everyday environs. The characters often find themselves under siege, whether they’re the homeless and displaced, migrant workers in search of opportunity, junkies, juvenile delinquents, hustlers hardened by circumstance, or an array of ne’er-do-wells thrust to the margins by society in general.
It’ s ironic then that many of the offerings — “24th Street Blues”, “Desperate”, “Barbara Jean”, and “Sunny Jim” — sound surprisingly affable, songs given a softer hew that share an easy, breezy sashay while offering no indication that anything is amiss. In that regard, the ominous overtones of songs like “Hidden History”, “White Econoline”, and “The Mission Is on Fire” contrast with the sweeter sentiments of “Quit Pretending” and the decided determination of “Like a Lion”.
So too, the songbook that accompanies the disc offers artful illustrations by Heyman’s wife, Deidre F. White, an artist and educator whose keen eye for detail rarely reflects anything of a more harrowing nature. Rather, the art leans towards a more symbolic and cerebral stance, allowing the notated sheet music and accompanying lyrics to reflect some deeper desire.
Of course, Heyman himself is no stranger to inspiration and imagination. A sought-after session player who’s made his name in any number of select circles, contributing to efforts by John Doe, Alejandro Escovedo, Chuck Prophet, Penelope Houston, Roy Loney, Hiss Golden Messenger, Sonny Smith, and Kelley Stoltz, among the many. Noted for his guitar work and pedal steel playing in particular, he naturally dominates these proceedings, which, in turn, are overseen by producer Mike Coykendall (M. Ward) and mixed by Scott Hirsch (Hiss Golden Messenger).
For all its disparity and simplicity, 24th Street Blues is Tom Heyman’s most ambitious effort yet, a knowing and nuanced work that boasts a craftsman’s touch and intuitive insight. A road well-traveled, its Blues infused with many different hues. (by Lee Zimmerman)
Listen and buy the music of Tom Heyman from AMAZON
For more information, please visit the Tom Heyman website
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