When Uncut released its influential Sounds of the New West cover CD in 1998 names like Josh Rouse, The Handsome Family and Lambchop were suddenly propelled on to the radar of a new generation of music fans. Following in the wake of this new interest in the emerging alt-country scene, many more bands and artists were thrust under the spotlight. Some were good, some were bad, some were indifferent and some got lost. Tandy were in the latter category.
Essentially the vehicle of songwriter and frontman Mike Ferrio, the band went through a number of changing line-ups until eventually being disbanded after the death of multi-instrumentalist Drew Glackin in January 2008. The only other ever-present was Dubliner, Tom McCrum who played drums. Despite being feted by the music media and building up a small core of devotees (including this writer), Tandy never made the breakthrough to bigger things. How they went under the radar for so long is something of a mystery. In reviewing their fourth album ‘Wide Open Spaces’ in 2001 No Depression wrote “For five years Tandy has been crafting some of the finest music you’ve probably never heard”.
Tandy’s self-titled debut album was released in 1997 on Tomato Records, the label set up by Townes Van Zandt’s manager Kevin Eggers. It disappeared without trace, but is an excellent debut and well worth seeking out. The follow-up in 1998 ‘Some Summers Day’ refined and improved the band’s roots-rock sound. However, it was with their 1999 release ‘Lichtenstein’s Oriole’ that Tandy reached their peak. The album is their masterpiece and to this day remains one of my favourite albums. If you are not familiar with it, I highly recommend that you check it out.
During the late 1990s and early 2000s I was involved with two friends in promoting alt-country music. We put on many artists in venues around Manchester. One of those bands was Tandy. Mike Ferrio was simply one of the nicest guys you could ever wish to meet. I seem to remember having a bit of a love-in with him over our mutual admiration for Gordon Lightfoot. However what stood out for me most was the quality of their live show, one of the best we ever put on.
Deeply affected by Drew Glackin’s death, Ferrio disbanded Tandy in 2008. By then through line-up changes and more erratic output, Tandy had run its course. Mike Ferrio went on to form Good Luck Mountain, which gave him a new lease of life and a return to form.
It’s an unfortunate fact of life that people don’t always get what they deserve. For me Mike Ferrio is a major talent and Tandy were a great band. Reviewing the Tandy compilation ‘The Lowdown 1997-2002’ in 2002 Pop Matters asserted “There’s been a great alt-country band under our noses the whole time, and their name is Tandy” Eighteen years later, I still concur.