March 24, 2008
Bill Toms Releases "Spirits, Chaos And A Troubadour Soul"
By Julie Toye
For The Herald Standard
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Ever since Pittsburgh musician/guitarist Bill Toms took to the road in 2006 to promote his music, he has
not stood still very long in one spot except to perform on American and European stages and write and
record his new CD, "Spirits, Chaos And A Troubadour Soul."

"This is a record that I was moving towards making for a long time," Toms said of the new CD, which
has "more of a troubadour feel" than any of his earlier five projects.

Clearly, it is a record that he said he could have written only as a result of being on the road and
moving from place to place so much since 2006.

"I have a love-hate relationship with touring," Toms said, quite understandably, given that the
musician has crossed America and parts of Europe a couple times since 2006 and will start another leg
of an American tour soon.

Also, consider that prior to 2006, Toms for 19 years played and toured, sometimes extensively, as Joe
Grushecky's lead guitarist in the Houserockers.

While opening with that band for acts such as The Band, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Little Feat and
Stevie Ray Vaughn, Toms started his own band, Hard Rain, nearly a decade ago.  By 2006, the self-
proclaimed homebody Toms started to focus on traveling and touring again to promote his own music.

Since 2006, some of Toms' American dates have been for solo performances. Consequently, he wisely
used the time traveling without other musicians to write and perfect his song writing. The lonely life of
the troubadour musician is depicted in his video of the new song, "It's Saturday Night Somewhere."

"I wanted it in black and white and for there to be constant movement," Toms said of the video which
has scenes clipped together of him driving, catching flights, walking and singing.

He depicted himself as the lonely troubadour always on the move, going everywhere but home on a
Saturday night. He tells the tale of musicians and their spouses, who too rarely have their own Saturday
nights alone so that fans instead can be entertained.

Followers of Toms' music know that he writes from his heart and that his extra gift as a musical
arranger allows his songs to transition more easily than not from from full electric band to trio, duo or
solo acoustic performances.   

Unlike his 2005 CD, "The West End Kid," which he referred to as "my guitar CD that I had to get out
of my system," Toms said that he took his time writing and releasing "Spirits, Chaos And A
Troubadour Soul."

"Every line of every song was given so much thought," Toms said of the creative process that went into
making his new CD. He said that the new songs "took a lot of emotion and energy to write." Along the
way sometimes and when he was done, he said was drained.

Toms' friends and fans respect his zero tolerance for war, hatred, prejudice and poverty and expect his
writing to reflect those strong beliefs. "Fourth of July," a chillingly poignant song about a wounded,
dying soldier, speaks loudly, sometimes in Toms' almost whisper, of the horrific reality of war.  

If you see my one true love
Tell her that she was always in my heart
And I, can see no light
Only my brother’s voice
Keeps me alive

And I remember you, on the fourth of July
You held my hand, I stood by your side
On the fourth of July

And I, I never felt so cold
I served my country well
But the pain won’t let go
And I, I fight for breathe
Sinking into the night
This is where my journey ends

And I remember you, on the fourth of July
You held my hand, I stood by your side
On the fourth of July
And now, I can feel no pain
The wounds have disappeared
The cries have gone away

And dad, when you think of me
Remember the times, the sun shone so bright
And remember me on the fourth of July
You held my hand, I stood by your side
On the fourth of July

With his writing, Toms paints personalized, vivid pictures of the casualities of war. The soldiers aren't
faceless or voiceless statistics to him. In the case of "Fourth of July," Toms' inspiration was a young,
paternal uncle whose death in war at age 19 impacted the family over generations and helped to provide
Toms with a voice for the dying soldier in his song.

A common thread throughout America's wars has been opposition,Toms said. He links draft riots in
1863 through the current-day opposition to this country's continued military involvement and presence
in Iraq. Generations have become desensitized to an extent to the deaths that war brings. Plus, every
generation's wars start out as something thought to be necessary and likely to end soon.

"The same thing happened in the Civil War. People thought this will be over in a few months," he said
as his voice dropped off momentarily before finishing his sentence with, "but here we are,"  speaking of
the still ongoing war and chaos it brings to all soldiers and families and people displaced due to war in
Iraq. Toms categorizes three new songs on "Spirits, Chaos And A Troubadour Soul" as "the war songs.

All but one of the songs on  "Spirits, Chaos And A Troubadour Soul" are Toms' original compositions.
The exception is a cover of the title track of the Waterboys' 1988 CD, "Fisherman's Blues."

Toms' past work on a Houserockers' record introduced him to the Waterboys' former manager, who by
then was working in recording and production. Toms had always liked the Waterboys' CD and opted to
start playing the cover song in his band and now to record it himself.

Laughing, Toms said, "I had no intention of recording that song that has become "a staple of the live
shows" with his band, Hard Rain. But the song that Toms describes as "a song about moving about and
finding the perfect freedom" found its comfortable place on the new CD, with an added Celtic twist of
his mandolin and Breiding's banjo mixed so well together with the electric and acoustic guitars.  

All but two of the songs on the new CD were produced at AmeriSon Studios, owned by Tom Breiding,
Toms' friend and Hard Rain guitarist. "Fisherman's Blues" and "Revelation Shuffle" were recorded at
Rick Witkowski's Studio L.

"Because Tom Breiding is such a great artist himself and passionate about his work, he was very
accommodating to work with," Toms said of his producer friend. Breiding often worked all night in the
studio after a recording session and called Toms the next day with glowing production progress updates.

"We would record and leave thinking that maybe we had something, or maybe we didn't," Toms said
and laughed.

"Then Tom would call the next day, so excited," Toms said of Breiding's enthusiasm and expertise as a
producer to enhance the work and get the CD production completed.

Likewise, Breiding said that he enjoyed working on this special project with Toms and the musicians
who played on it.

"I believe this collection of songs ranks among Bill's finest work," Breiding said.

"Much of what folks will like about the production of these songs is really a result of the fine musicians
who have played on the album and the creative tracks they gave me to work with," he added.

Joining Toms and Breiding on "Spirits, Chaos And A Troubadour Soul" are: saxophone player Phil
Brontz; Vinny Q. on electric guitar; Scott P. "Scooter" Tamulinas and Art Nardini on bass guitar;
"Sudden" Steve Binsberger and Anthony Rankin on piano; Joffo Simmons and Chris Moore on drums;
Bernie Herr on drums and percussion; Megan Palmer on fiddle and vocals; Marc Reisman on
harmonica; Lorenzo Bertocchini on tamborine; and Jill Simmons and Andrea Pearl on vocals.

"Megan's fiddle gives many of these songs an organic feel and Phil's sax defines "Waste of Life" and
"Tell Her I'm Home," said Breiding.

Brontz describes his role in recording the amazing sax piece in "Tell Her I'm Home," another CD
standout. Toms was in Italy touring when Brontz went to AmeriSon Studios to record that song with
Breiding. Brontz said he usually has not heard any song he has ever recorded with Toms until he arrived
at the recording studios.

In the case of "Tell Her I'm Home," Brontz  relayed how his sax part developed to one of the most
beautiful songs on the CD. He said he listened to the song twice before Breiding offered a couple
suggestions on how his sax part might sound before he started recording Brontz.

"At the end, I was thinking, that wasn't any good at all. I will have a lot of work to do. But Tom said
that was great -- the best stuff he ever heard me play!" Brontz relayed, adding that he asked to try one
more time. Again, at playback, Brontz thought his second take was not good, either, but Breiding
thought that the saxman nailed it perfectly.

"It's all trial and error, and we usually stop after one or two takes. I usually think we should try it
again. Bill usually says that is great and not to change a thing. Working with Tom, I saw, was much like
working with Bill," Brontz said.

"It's not my typical style at all, but I guess that is what is cool about it," Brontz summarized about his
sax piece that brings life with Breiding's piano and Toms' guitar and voice to "Tell Her I'm Home."


If you see my baby, tell her I’m home
She left me a letter, killed me with her words
There’s blood on my hands, chasing the unknown
So if you see my baby, tell her I’m home

If you see her tears, hold her close
Shield her from the wind, bring her in from the cold
This road stretched out, and I stayed too long
So if you see my baby, tell her I’m home

Outside the rain keeps falling down
There’s a picture on the table
In this ancient house, not a word, not a sound

If you see my baby, tell her I’m here
Dinners on the stove, flowers in the vase
There’s candle in the window, and it’s shining bright
I just pray to God, its not too late


The CD's opening track, a rock-type song with slide guitar called "Together," was originally written as
an acoustic, slow ballad. However, that changed to an electric band piece when Connellsville native
Vinny Q., formerly of Hard Rain, The Zippers and Torn & Frayed, came onboard to record with Toms.

"I was so happy that Vinny came in to play on that song. He is such a great rock and roll guitarist," said
Toms of his good friend known sometimes to join him or share Toms' band's venue bill with his own new
band.   

Another standout of "Spirits," is a bittersweet song called "You and I," that Toms wrote one night in
one hour when he couldn't sleep. He and Breiding recorded it alone with just an acoustic guitar,
harmonica and keyboard. In it, Toms writes:

And I will shed my heart and soul, and I will close the door
Cause you and I were together
Whenever it seemed like the world was watching

You and I were together
Whenever it was convenient for us

We’ll meet again in peaceful times
And I’ll go your way, and I’ll hope that you’ll go mine

And I will shed these lonely nights
And I will close the door
So you and I were together
Whenever it seemed like the world was watching

You and I were together
Whenever it was convenient for us



Other songs on Toms' new CD include "City of Fear," which fans already have heralded as Toms' rock
anthem, and a spirited, uplifting end to the CD called "Revelation Shuffle."  The last song energizes the
troubadour to keep on going along his way after wondering earlier on whether he should stop for a while.

In the sense of the CD's spirits, Toms wrote the song, "There Was A Time," to give voice to his father
who died of cancer. Alone with guitars and a digital drum score, Toms and Breiding recorded the song
which Toms referred to as the song his dad would have written about his own life if he could have.

There was a time
not so long ago
I come home from work
Walking down that road

There was a time
it all seemed right
Mud on my boots
you on my mind
There was a time
There was a time in my life

In my children’s eyes
I walked a king’s mile
I stood so tall
and I was their life

But in this room
breath of a man
With death on his side
Trembling hands
There was a time
There was a time in my life

When the train rolls through
Well I’d like to see
Another set of tracks
Rolling hills of green

Please pray for me
my darling dear
And I live my life
beyond my years

Worked all the time
gave all I have
A sinners dream
I’m without regrets
There was a time
There was a time in my life


A song such as "(Give Me A Piece Of) The Good Life" from "Spirits, Chaos And A Troubadour Soul"
fits rather nicely in a spunky, country rock-type genre, while others are closer in line with rock or folk
music.

Regardless, Toms' new CD is just remarkable, and it seems a waste of time and energy to even try to
make it fit any one or even two genres or label it anything other than good music.

Toms appears comfortable enough with everywhere he has been, and unsettled enough about some
things he has seen, to keep going in any direction that his heart, writing and music take him.

Toms is gearing up for a CD release party at Cefalo's on April 5, 2008. "Spirits, Chaos And A
Troubadour Soul" will be available after the CD release party starting on April 15, 2008, at Pittsburgh
area music stores, Borders, Best Buy, and WalMart, as well as through Internet sales on Amazon,
itunes, Rhapsody, all digital formats and through billtoms.com, Toms' website.

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