Tom Heyman “24th Street Blues”

Bohemian Neglect Recording Works, 2023

A selection of songs drawing out personal themes of place, family and relationships performed by class musicians.

Cover art for 24th Street Blues by Tom Heyman. Artist Deirdre WoodTom Heyman moved to San Francisco with his wife Deirdre White over 20 years ago and after several moves inside their first year in the city settled in a storefront on 24th Street in the Mission District.  Heyman’s latest album – his sixth – is part love letter part social commentary for the area he calls home.  It comes accompanied by a songbook beautifully illustrated by White and providing charts, tabs and lyrics for all the songs as well as credits and some context from Heyman.

‘24th Street Blues’ was recorded in Oregon with the producer’s chair occupied by Mike Coykendall.  The album was mixed by Heyman’s fellow Hiss Golden Messenger alumnus, Scott Hirsch. Heyman has recorded and toured with many americana legends including, in addition to MC Taylor’s troupe, Chuck Prophet, Kelley Stoltz and Alejandro Escovedo, all of whom have San Francisco connections. He has called on his fellow pros to support with Coykendall playing guitars, bass and percussion and Rusty Miller on keys, bass and percussion. Mike Brenner contributes lap steel to a couple of tracks while Heyman himself adds guitars and pedal steel in addition to the lead vocal.  The musicians seem very comfortable with one another and the songs creating an overall tight but loose bed on which Heyman’s stories take root.

While the core of the album is focused on the Mission, a number of the songs look back to Heyman’s earlier life leading up to his move to Northern California.  The album opener and title track is very much in the former group introducing local characters existing against a relentless tide of urban development where the needs of people are subordinated to the pursuit of capital assets.

‘Desperate’ switches to the personal focusing on “being desperate for something” while “I could feel it just beyond my outstretched hands; ‘gainst my fingers like the finest grains of sand.”  The following ‘Barbara Jean’ tells of a woman who longs to make something of herself but finds herself drawn back to care for a seriously ill parent and “pretty soon dreams begin to fade”.

‘Sonny Jim’ picks up a similar theme of lost opportunities although this time out of poor choices rather than misfortune.

The San Francisco theme returns with ‘The Mission Is On Fire’ recounting the tendency for buildings to burn down at times suspiciously convenient for developers and landlords.  Heyman’s bitter chorus notes “The Mission is on fire and there’s some people getting rich”‘Quit Pretending’ highlights more of the personal cost to the people in the Mission of what seems like an inevitable process. ‘Like A Lion’ rocks out as Heyman finds himself reminiscing on family, faith and trying to make his way in an uncertain world. Heyman is back in angry mode in ‘White Econoline’ which tells the tale of agricultural casual workers and the eponymous van that takes them between their workplaces and the substandard accommodation provided. ‘That Tender Touch’ is a sad song of a relationship slipping away through neglect underlined by Heyman’s poignant pedal steel. The album closes with a reprise of ‘Desperate’ reduced to Heyman’s mournful vocal vocal and Miller’s piano.

Heyman succeeds on ‘24th Street Blues’ in providing a selection of songs drawing out personal themes of place, family and relationships performed with musicians who wrap them in empathic music.


About Richard Parkinson 90 Articles
London based self-diagnosed music junkie with tastes extending to all points of big tent americana and beyond. Fan of acts and songs rather than genres.
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