Tommy and Ohs move on from the psychedelic trimmings of their last album to land right in Americana territory.
After a rather scintillating retro-sounding release, ‘Mariposa Gold’, in 2022, Tommy and the Ohs have veered away from the quasi-psychedelic production with the swampy guitars and produced a fascinating alt-country album, laden with tinkling piano, pretty acoustic guitar sounds and some lovely fiddle (and strings occasionally).
Tommy is Thomas Oliverio, a record producer based in Nashville who writes songs and produces albums from time to time using friends and neighbours that he has played with over the years, and tries out a variety of sounds to create well-rounded and varied albums. ‘Mariposa Gold’ was one such, with a series of homages to the sounds of the 60s, 70s and 80s. He repeats the trick with ‘Box Truck Boogie’ but the influences on this album are fundamentally country with splashes of Mexican vibe, Western Swing, pop/rock, even some far eastern sounds in the background. The arrangements, complicated as some are, are outstanding, especially when occasional guests sprinkle their stardust. Adam Donald’s pedal steel on ‘Ciao Bella’ is a good example, as is Paul Thacker’s subtle sax on ‘In Misery’. Oliverio wrote all but one of the songs, sings lead and plays guitar, but the overall instrumental star is probably Billy Contreras on fiddle – his shimmering breaks on album standout ‘Angel Baby’ are a delight. Alicia Gail, whose vocals on ‘Mariposa Gold‘ were a highlight, adds great vocals on three of the tracks. The sparkling piano parts are largely by Jimmy Rowland, although Cody Campbell is outstanding on the swinging ‘On Your Own’, and the closing romp ‘Pig on a Train’.
The overall album feel is of a cross-country musical tour – indeed Oliverio took a big rig across 13,000 miles of the USA while his previous album was in postproduction, resulting in inspiration for the album title and this song selection– interesting literate lyrics and catchy melodies abound. He tackles getting sober while hoping his relationship can be saved to the backdrop of barroom piano on the opener ‘I don’t know what I was on’ – “If I’d a treated you babe, like I treated myself You know you’d never have the notion to put me back on the shelf I don’t know what i was on, but honey i’m off it now”. ‘So it seems’ follows a similar trend, with a hoped for reboot to a dying relationship –“ Now it’s one year later I’m still standing by the door staring at the driveway hoping that your car will show Now it’s one year later I’m still holding on to your ring the rest is history or so it seems”
Most of the songs address loss and the end of relationships, even when the sound is upbeat, as in ‘Reputation Tour’, where Oliverio’s vocal reminds one of Pokey Lafarge, for whom Oliverio used to be tour manager. But the last track ‘Pig on a Train’ has a tiny spark of hope – “Well sometimes it’s the light at the end of the tunnel sometimes it’s the light of a train its like we’re either blind or seeing double curse the storm then pray for rain”.
With only 9 tracks and most of them running less than three minutes, this is more like a long EP than a full-length album, but it is full of really good songs, well produced and deserves to be heard.
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