Tommy Womack – Now What!

January 01, 1970

(Cedar
Creek Music)

 

www.cedarcreekrecords.com

 

With his
acclaimed, semi-autobiographical 2007 album There,
I Said It!
, Nashville-based singer-songwriter Tommy Womack partially resuscitated
a career that was going nowhere in a hurry. Brimming over with self-doubt,
stark personal realizations, and boldly defiant statements, the album bared
Womack’s soul in a way that many self-absorbed indie-rockers could only pretend
to offer. The songs on There, I Said It! were funny, sad, angst-ridden, frustrating, witty, and emotionally-charged. The
album seemed, at the time, to provide a final punctuation mark to the brilliant
artist’s tumultuous career.

 

Fate had a
different hand to deal Womack, however, and enough listeners connected with his
confessional story-songs to thankfully write another chapter
to this story. In the five years since the release of There, I Said It!, Womack teamed up with fellow wordsmith and
underrated six-string maestro Will Kimbrough as Daddy, the duo joined by some
friends to record 2009’s acclaimed For A
Second Time
. Now, a half-decade after receiving his second (third?) shot at
the brass ring, the former Government Cheese frontman has delivered the
wonderful, wry, and playfully entertaining Now
What!

 

With Now What!, Womack continues in a musical
vein similar to that he pursued on There,
I Said It!
, with a few notable exceptions.
Again, the singer is the main protagonist in his own finely-crafted stories,
but while Womack’s witty lyrics remains front and center, he takes a few more
chances here musically than ever before, and with exciting results. The album
opener, “Play That Cheap Trick, Cheap Trick Play,” is pure power-pop
magic with personalized lyrics that blend an infectious melody with lyrical snapshots
of domestic life mixed with the seemingly endless gigs of the itinerant
musician, all delivered with an undeniable élan.

 

“Bye
& Bye” is a stark, deliberately-paced autobiographical ballad that
tells a familiar story for the hopeless romantics in the audience, a random
encounter with an old love that sets the mind to wandering and wondering what
might have been. Womack’s perfectly-wistful vocals are laid atop a
gently-strummed guitar, accompanied by John Deaderick’s subtle keyboard
flourishes, the lyrics themselves brilliantly insightful while crashing back to
earth with an inevitable conclusion. “I’m Too Old To Feel That Way Right
Now” is the flip-side of that encounter, more ruminations on love and lust
that are plagued by an uneasy slide into middle age angst and grudging acceptance.

 

Womack’s
flirtations with the demon alcohol are the stuff of legend amidst the sheltered
Nashville rock
scene, rivaling stories of the Reverend’s own tilting at that particular
windmill for tall tales shared by wagging tongues across suburban fences. The
singer’s “On & Off The Wagon” wins the competition hands down,
the song’s twangy, Lambchop-styled, fractured alt-country soundtrack matched
only by its clever, melancholy wordplay. Singing of his battle with the bottle
as Bill Huber’s tuba staggers prominently behind the vocals, Womack tosses off sharply-phrased
passages like “sometimes I like the wagon, sometimes I like to walk”;
“I’ve learned to know my limit, I’ve learned to pass it by”; and
“I’m smart as a whip, I’m dumb as wood” as part of a wild mea culpa
that is rooted firmly in the country tradition by Jim Hoke’s weeping pedal
steel guitar.

 

By
contrast, Womack’s spoken word rant “90 Miles An Hour Down A Dead-End
Street” is a continuation of the previous album’s wonderfully wry “Alpha
Male & the Canine Mystery Blood,” both autobiographical raps delivered
with more than a little Hunter S. Thompson-styled gonzo spirit. In this case,
Womack’s dialogue is accompanied by a lone brassy drumbeat, the singer tossing
off stream-of-consciousness thoughts like a 21st century Bukowski while telling
his sordid tale. Prefacing the rant with the introductory “went to Indy,
in the rain, to a club that was never going to have me again, a bottle of
Chianti in the passenger seat, driving 90 miles per hour down a dead-end street,”
Womack delivers such lyrical bon mots as “I work for myself and I still
get fired”; “now I just drink, except
when I don’t, and you’re either going to get a good show or you won’t”;
and the sparkling nihilism “I’ve done everything I could to kill myself
and take other people with me,” with tongue only partially in cheek.

 

Lest one
think Tommy Womack as just another hipster with a penchant for lyrical
self-immolation, he blows up that misconception
with the low-slung rocker “I Love You To Pieces.” Womack’s playful,
oblique lyrics here are matched by a mid-tempo soundtrack that blends the
Southern-fried funk of Dan Baird and the Georgia Satellites with the reckless,
bristling rock ‘n’ roll of the Replacements, offering up plenty of greasy
fretwork and blasts of harmonica. The introspective “Wishes Do Come
True” is an acoustic ballad that benefits from Lisa Oliver-Gray’s subtle
backing vocals echoing Womack’s own, while “Over The Hill” is a
trademark Tommy Womack construct, tilted slightly towards Tom Waits territory
with an oddly discordant guitar strum and lilting vocals sliding uneasily
across the tinkling piano keys and squalls of tuba.

 

Less a
sequel than a bookend to the desperate “Hail Mary” pass that was There, I Said It!, Womack’s Now What! imagines a career beyond the
soul-destroying 9 to 5 dead-end the singer saw himself trapped in for the rest
of his miserable existence. Displaying a disarming optimism
amidst the introspective double-clutching and romantic daydreams than
previously, Now What! offers up more
of what Tommy Womack does best – working class blues from the street-view seats
of the restless American dream.  

 

DOWNLOAD: “Play That Cheap Trick, Cheap Trick
Play,” “90 Miles an Hour Down a Dead End Street,” “I Love You
To Pieces” – REV. KEITH A. GORDON

 

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