One of the best things that can happen at a gig is going home having discovered a new favourite artist you’d previously never heard of. Last night I saw the future of sardonic, self-deprecating singer-songwriters – and his name is Tommy Womack.
Tommy’s songs mix slightly bitter nostalgia for lost youth with a wry take on his current situation (post-nervous breakdown and working nine-to-five). Lyrics like “my band was still gigging then/REM were still kicking then” meant I was an easy convert but Tommy’s version of Tom Waits’ The Piano Has Been Drinking towards the end of the set sealed the deal.
Tommy alternated songs all night with his pal Will Kimbrough. My introduction to Kimbrough came two years ago when he played a small gig with Rodney Crowell at the 12 Bar Club. Dressed in a black suit and shirt Will couldn’t have looked more different to Womack, who appeared to have borrowed his wardrobe from Robert Crumb. A lot of Will Kimbrough’s recent material has a political, though not preachy, edge but with Tommy they seemed to channel every vein of American music - country, folk, blues, rock ‘n’ roll. They even managed a Clash cover. Kimbrough's also a first-rate guitar player - his slide work is fantastic.
The audience at the Borderline was fairly meagre – 45 max – but the pair were full of warmth towards the lucky few who did show up. In the interval/retail opportunity Will admired my t-shirt and Tommy expounded on our shared frustrations with REM’s recent output. It was the sort of friendly show, packed with incredible songs, that I imagine happens in Nashville on a nightly basis. And that’s made me look forward to a honeymoon in ‘Music City’ even more. If we’re lucky, Will and Tommy might even be playing.