Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Robert 'Top' Thomas -- "The Town Crier"

Robert 'Top' Thomas's debut "The Town Crier" on Wild Root Records is terrific, all Florida swamp blues and delta roots. For those who might be unfamiliar with Thomas, over the past 10-12 years he has toured and/or recorded with Noble 'Thin Man' Watts, Lazy Lester, Victor Wainwright, The King Snake All Star Revue, Alex Taylor, Bill Wharton, Blue House and Mark 'MuddyHarp' Hodgson. Thomas may be best known, however, as a founding member of King Snake recording artist "Smoke-House" who recorded 4 ground-breaking cds in the 90s that defined the genre of Florida swamp blues. Their 1995 cd "Cadillac In The Swamp" was listed among the best blues cds of that year.

And now Thomas releases "The Town Crier," on which he sings lead and plays lead guitars, backed by The WildRoots rhythm section--Stephen Dees on bass, guitars, backing vocals and percussion, Billy Dean on drums--and Stephen Kampa (winner of the 2012 Florida Harmonica Championship) on harmonica. Guest musicians include Victor Wainwright on co-lead vocals on "Bad Seed," and piano and organ, Damon Fowler on dobro on "I'm A Freight Train," Brandon Santini on harmonica on "Blues Grass" and "Daddy's Gone," and Beth McKee on accordion on "The Same Thing Could Happen To You." Stephen Dees produces and arranges. All the songs are by some combination of Robert Thomas/Stephen Dees/Victor Wainwright/Bob Greenlee except the Jerry West song "The Same Thing Could Happen To You."

Thomas has a perfect gruff blues voice. He sounds a little like Watermelon Slim to me, which is a compliment. The songs are all a terrific balance of storytelling and drive. Nowhere on this cd do I hear a 6 minute pointless guitar solo--every note is played in the perfect place for the sake of the song, and time I hear one song I want to hear the whole cd, and every time I hear the cd I want to hear it again. Highlights include the title track, which features a nice "crying" vocal and guitar solo by Thomas and a really good harp solo by Kampa. Santini's harp riding over Billy Dean's drum work on "Daddy's Gone." Damon Fowler's dobro sparkles on "I'm A Freight Train."

On every song you can hear a very good band playing with joy and taste. This cd is a terrific effort. Buy this one, and watch for whatever Robert 'Top' Thomas does next.

You can buy this cd at  

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