TOMMY ROE – ‘DEVIL’S SOUL PILE’
Well – could I get a bigger contrast to my usual interviews/reviews? Since I started doing them I have generally focussed on young artists, even the older ones have tended to be relatively unknown ones that I believed deserved greater exposure. A few days ago I had the great privilege of speaking to somebody who first had a hit record in 1962, and has just released a brand new album with a title track that considers very relevant contemporary social issues.
Too young to be buying music in 1962, I didn’t add Tommy Roe’s ‘Shiela’ to my collection then, but in my teenage years I was very excited when I bought ‘Dizzy’ in 1969, one of the seminal examples of ‘bubblegum pop’. It was a great success for him then and was another big hit when re-worked in 1991 by Vic Reeves & the Wonder Stuff. Now in 2012 I have come into possession of a copy of his new album, and interviewed him.
During our chat he told me about his wonderful memories of touring the UK with The Beatles, before they broke into the big time. Prior to this album his last one was in the early 1990s and he retired from touring in 2005. He then talked about his return to live gigs recently, being impressed by some of the exciting new music that he hears on College Radio, and writing the title track, ‘Devil’s Soul Pile’ which led to the release of the album.
Very interestingly, Tommy talked about the effects that technological developments have had on the music industry throughout his career. In fact the album was recorded with Tommy remaining in Los Angeles whilst other musicians recorded their contributions in Nashville; the various parts being sent electronically for overdubbing. This is clearly a world away from his experience of recording ‘Sheila’ back in 1962.
Although it is a new song, ‘Devil’s Soul Pile’ harks back to Tommy’s youth when he remembers a local preacher going on about the Devil collecting peoples’ souls. He has taken this notion and linked it to a thoughtful consideration of the effects of living in a modern dysfunctional family. The intelligent lyrics are supported by marvellous instrumentation, I particularly like the female backing singer. The other tracks provide a lovely, generally relaxed, and varied selection of songs. ‘It’s For You I’m Me’ is a delightful duet with Melissa Hooker and accompanied by a luscious saxophone, whilst ‘Love For My Woman’ is a happy upbeat classic pop song. Other songs reflect the influence of C&W and blues; and the accordion in ‘Remember’ makes it a perfect song for a ‘last dance’. Whilst listening to this album I kept imagining sitting at an al-fresco dining table enjoying great company over and a lovely meal whilst watching the sun set over beautiful scenery. Then there is the almost anthemic ‘Water Underneath My Burning Bridge’. No surprise that over the years Tommy has been inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of fame, the Rockabilly Hall of Fame , and will be inducted into the Iowa Rock & Roll Association Hall of Fame on 2nd September.
In summary, then; this album was certainly quite different from my routine listening these days, but I thoroughly appreciated all aspects of it – lyrics, instrumentation, presented with a polished production. Despite the fact that all the songs are new, I also detected a timeless quality that brought a whole range of memories flooding back to me. Now I wait to see if a video will be produced for the title track, I believe that really could be something rather special.
1/ Memphis Me
2/ It’s For You I’m Me
3/ Water Underneath My Burning Bridge
4/ What If’s And Should Have’s
6/ Without Her
7/ That’s When She Ran Out Of Time
8/ Love For My Woman
9/ Devil’s Soul Pile