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Tom Hambridge - Boom!

Superstar Records

11 tracks, 37:58

Tom Hambridge isn’t really a blues man. He’s not really a country singer either. He straddles the line where two traditional forms of rural American music meet. He stands at the intersection where many believe rock and roll was created and defiantly dares us to define his music. Why bother? It’s good music and doesn’t need to be categorized. You might recognize the name Tom Hambridge from Buddy Guy’s recent Living Proof disc or from George Thorogood’s 2120 South Michigan Avenue., or from the songwriting credits on numerous albums. He’s a drummer, producer, songwriter, and purveyor of American music. The list of artists with whom he’s worked, written, and played is vast, eclectic and impressive. It’s no wonder his latest disc, Boom!, is such a successful musical excursion.

Boom! kicks off with “I Keep Things,” a song that taps into the collective psyche of Americans; we’re keepers. We like to have all kinds of things around us to remind us where we’ve been, who we’ve met and even who we are. We all keep things, either physically, mentally or metaphorically. The song subtly examines the habit over a rocking beat, scorching guitars, and memorable hooks. Chuck Berry should be proud.

Hambridge has some writing partners on the album including Delbert McClinton, Johnny & Donnie Van Zant, and Jimmy Thackery. Thackery contributed to the amusing “Upside Of Lonely.” Jimmy is no stranger to irony and their humorously slanted approaches to lyrics mesh perfectly; it would be nice to hear more from this pair. In this case they explore the freedom to be your own worst enemy - lethargic, dirty, unhealthy, uncouth and happy. Women just want you to do stuff anyway, who needs them?

A lot Tom Hambridge’s lyrics display wry humor. If all games involve a form a death and all jokes are based on pain, Hambridge exists in the nexus exploring both sides in song. His eye is keenly focused on the human condition and the aspects that make life tragic, magic, and memorable. Details that may seem mundane are really the focus of the moments of our lives and Hambridge realizes how the little things make us whole. He’s able to convey it all succinctly, while drawing the listener into the story. In “Nine Pound Hammer” he sings “give a boy a hammer; everything starts to look like a nail.” Twelve words accurately sum up the nature of men but there’s much more to think about there.

It also helps that Hambridge wraps his words in simple, catchy hooks played with aplomb by a top notch band. “Nine Pound Hammer” is a swinging southern rocker with slide guitars and groove for miles. It’s got Lynyrd Skynyrd-style piano flourishes and a vocal delivery that would make the Olympic Ass-Kicking Team proud. “Bangin' Around” is boogie woogie bliss - Kevin McKendree channels Jerry Lee Lewis while guitarist Rob McNelley conjures a slinky, Stevie Ray Vaughan style boogie that lights a fire under the piano and burns it to the ground. The album closes with an upbeat track appropriately titled “I Had A Real Good Time.” It’s fast, fun and full of forward momentum which will hopefully carry over to his next disc.

For me, the only misstep is “I Got Your Country Right Here,” a Hambridge tune Gretchen Wilson did a few years back. It’s a name check song, a style that for many never seems to lose its allure, as though naming bands you like will create a personal identity that is otherwise lacking. This kind of kitschy throwaway song might resonate with the lowest common denominator of listeners but ultimately rings hollow; it’s an over-done concept. Everything else on this album points to Hambridge being above this kind of pandering. It's disappointing. It's a shame because the music is spirited, with a cool riff and scorching lead guitars. Guitarist Rob McNelley's work is consistently stellar all over Boom!.

All in all, Boom! lives up to its title - exploding on to the scene and dragging us whooping and hollering across rural landscapes on interstate highways. Tom Hambridge’s production skills are superb and this record not only has good songs, they sound good too. The arrangements are uncluttered without being simplistic, dynamic without bombast, and every accent knows its place and fills it perfectly. Hopefully there will be more high quality work from Hambridge for years to come..

Reviewer Jim Kanavy is the greatest guitar player in his house. He has been reviewing albums in his head for 30 years and in print since 2008, and is deeply committed to keeping the blues alive and thriving. For more information visit

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