Eight years on from his critically acclaimed Magnificent Bastard album, Dallas roots-rocker Tommy Hale returns with new single, video and album.

The driving ‘Hideaway’ is the opening cut on Tommy’s forthcoming album All At Sea, out through Holiday Disaster Records on 12 April.

Once again, the album was recorded in England, at Wiltshire’s Mooncalf Studio with sometime members of London roots-rock band The Snakes (Simon George Moor, Johnny O’Sullivan and Dan Tilbury) along with guitarist Nick Beere, and was produced by Moor.

The band started the recording in November 2019 and were set to begin on a Monday morning. Tommy received a call on the Sunday evening informing him that his father had had a heart attack and was not expected to live. The recording sessions were abandoned. The following spring the pandemic began. Consequently, the album carries an unavoidable sense of loss, escape and finding solace in the quiet moments that came about because of the unprecedented circumstances.  

It would be easy to lazily bracket Hale’s oeuvre as ‘Americana’, but there’s quite a bit more going on here, with forays into power-pop, alt-rock and classic left-of-centre songwriting in the manner of, say, Randy Newman, Warren Zevon and Kevin Ayres, although Tommy would never be so bigheaded as to compare himself to any of those masters. What is certain, though, is that the clash of Texan and English cultures give them album an unique and vital energy.

“I went into making this album wanting to interpret other people’s songs alongside mine,” explains Tommy. “I’ve always enjoyed hearing a great Willie Nelson song that sounds like it came straight from his soul, only to find out another songwriter wrote it. The record contains two songs from friends of mine that I wanted to see if I could interpret – ‘Esperanza’ by Tex Smith and ‘Radio Towers’ by Greg Vanderpool. These songs always stood out to me as something I wanted to dive into. I also stepped back a bit on writing lyrics and Johnny O’Sullivan stepped forward. I think it added some depth and a different perspective that I couldn’t achieve on my own. I had grown a bit tired of my own thoughts.”

Tommy and his band will play three UK shows around the time of the album’s release:

11 Apr – The Beehive, Swindon

12 Apr – The Giffard Arms, Wolverhampton

13 Apr – Aces & Eights, Tufnell Park, London

It’s been eight years between records for Texan Tommy but like a fine wine, Almost a decade is good, it’s time to mature ideas and ready them to unleash when people least expect it. Choosing to record in the UK with London-based band The Snakes the band settled down to begin recording way back in 2019 but a family emergency followed by a global pandemic put pay to such good intentions.

The album kicks off in style with an upbeat and confident ‘Hideaway’ with a cool feel to the arrangement and it sounds like a band who are ready to get down to business – brimming with energy and Hales’s cool lyrics and melody it’s a mighty fine opener that’s for sure making the listener sit up and pay attention.

There’s more to ‘All At Sea’ than some guitar-driven Americana as ‘World Won’t Wait’ enters the fray with an 80s synth and ‘My Sherona’ beat signalling a bright power pop edge. There’s definitely an Alt rock edge to some of the songwriting and a widescreen view to songwriting going on as the cool breezy feel almost a Dan Stuart style to ‘Let’s Start A Fire’ and I like it a lot it’s like a paragraph from a Karouk novel as it builds to the chorus that’s got an edge and oozes class.

The next couple of tracks dance on the darker edges of alternative guitar-driven music before that power pop edge is back with a punchy ‘Now You Know’ with its thumping rhythm section and cowbell use – hell yeah! The ebb and flow of the record is excellent as is the individual quality of the songs on offer. ‘Radio Towers’ smoulders where ‘How The Story Goes’ just cuts loose and rocks out with a carefree tempo as it pours bourbon on the fire before the laid-back ‘Last Town Before The Border’ brings you back down to earth with its countrified acoustic leanings. It’s got a big heart and a lot of soul before the closing title track leaves you with a heart full of Rock and Roll in many guises but with credibility and a great flow to the whole record. Go on dig in, it might just be a record that you want to play over and over. Buy IT!

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Author: Dom Daley