Sunday, February 6, 2011

Hard Miles Travelled: Tom Ovans

Tom Ovans

There was a while there back in the 1970s when almost every new male singer songwriter was saddled with the label: the ‘new’ DylanSpringsteen, Waits, Prine and Wainwright all had the ‘compliment’ foisted upon them but saw it as a straightjacket. They all went on to make their own music and quickly show the world that there will always only ever be one Dylan. But also that there was room for their voices too.

In those same years that all the ‘new’ Dylans were being announced, there was a singer who shared the same haunts in New York and Nashville but who went unnoticed. He hung out with Tim Hardin and Phil Ochs and made his way across the continent singing, doing odd jobs and sleeping on the streets. All the while living a pretty raw version of life but turning the experience into art.  When his songs began to be recorded it seemed as if at last here was a real ‘new’ Dylan. But by that time the music industry and critics had given up the game and the singer continued to languish in obscurity.

His name is Tom Ovans and if you’re not familiar with his music you’ll be taken by some amazing similarities with Dylan. In fact, you’ll hear some of the best music that Dylan never recorded. Ovans’ voice seems at times to come from exactly that same gene pool as the Bobster’s. And the man’s turn of phrase can be as alluring, hard-hitting and surprising as Dylan’s.  And when Ovan blows his grim harmonica you can be persuaded that the great man himself is sitting in on the session.

And perhaps after an initial listen or two you will stop listening. Why drink Campa Cola when the fridge is full of Coke? But if you do turn him off then you’ll be making a mistake.  Tom Ovans is no tribute band. He is no impressionist. And he is not trying to revive the practice of crowning yet another ‘new’ Dylan. In fact, Ovans couldn’t give a shit about what his voice or harp playing sounds like. And I’m sure if you asked him about his lyrics he’d tell you that unlike Dylan who mythologized most of his early years, he’s lived every hard day and walked every long mile that he sings about.

In Tom Ovans you’ll discover an unsanitized Boss, a man who sings with desperate intensity about the current state of the world as experienced by a haunted but somehow resilient and hopeful American hobo.

            Track Listing:
            1. Mama Went To Arkansas

2 Cool Daddy

3 Let My Spirit Fly

4 I See You There

5 Dark Road

6 Sixth Avenue

7 Underground Train

8 Meeting On The Road

9 Living In This Town

10 The Night I Saw The Devil

11 I Got A Feeling For You


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