Album Reviews

Below are some of my album reviews, features, and press clippings. 


Tom Heyman boasts an impressive resume, thanks to stints with the likes of Go To Blazes, The Court and Spark, Chuck Prophet, Mark Eitzel, John Doe, and John Murry among others. Still it’s his three solo albums -- four if you count an early effort that remains sadly still unreleased --which have earned him special distinction. His latest, That Cool Blue Feeling, demonstrates yet again why he’s such a singular talent, an artist capable of offering sensitive reflection without ever sinking into the realms of morose melancholia. The sprightly and sparkling “Time and Money” and the easy sway of “Chickenhawks and Jesus Freaks” recount tales of his early adventures and seminal musings, but they come across with such affinity and familiarity that he never puts his listeners at arms length. From the opening rumble of “Black Top” to the easy lilt of the self-deprecating “Losers Like Me,” Heyman manages to continually coax listeners into his cool groove. Any sunshine aside, there’s also an occasional late night haze that accompany these tunes, although happily, there always seems to be some sort of light on the horizon. Suffice it to say, That Cool Blue Feeling is contagious.- No Depression


Tom Heyman’s pedal steel has been the secret sauce in SF indie-country recordings by the Court & Spark, Paula Frazer, John Vanderslice and Chuck Prophet, his haunting slide work etching ghostly shadows into moody roots melodies. Cool Blue Feeling is his third solo album, and though he necessarily moves to the front, Heyman remains reticent, subdued and unflashy, murmuring blues-y regrets over glistening guitar licks but not throwing anything in your face. Heyman’s voice, for instance, is workman-like and plainspoken, with decent range but not much drama. He sounds like a more urbane and self-aware John Hiatt – you know, with the hokey-ness dialed down – as he mutters wry, world-weary observations. He seems, for much of the album, to be singing right into your ear. His guitar playing is a little showier than his singing, with luminous slide work in “Chickenhawks and Jesus Freaks,” and smouldery blues vamps in “Always Be Around.” Yet it’s all so tasteful and understated that you wish he’d cut loose, forget about getting everything aligned and just turn up the temperature. That’s why, maybe, “Black Top,” the album’s opener, seems like such a highlight. Its heat is kept to a simmer, sure, but it’s bubbling underneath, and it radiates sex and desperation in a way that the other tracks don’t. I like the way the slouchy blues underpinning erupt into trebly guitar soloing; it’s like a rainbow slicing through the murkiest sort of thundercloud. The quietness can work, too, when it suits the songs, as on the title track, which mourns the spluttering out of a love relationship. Here the reticence, the meditative distance, the steadiness of feeling mirrors the burnt out stunned-ness that comes after a break-up. And the song is beautiful, too, in its way, as it finds curves and valleys in a well-contained landscape. The little shifts, like a fat-string solo mid-way through, seem like landmarks. The slight crests in volume, the embedded sighs, the flutters of infinitesimal vibrato—all this signals deep, not fully-expressed sensation. It’s nearly stoic, but not quite, and as a result all the more powerful. – Blurt



Tom Heyman is a singer-songwriter currently living in San Francisco, who also happens to be a great lead guitar player who’s worked with Chuck Prophet and John Doe, and also played lead in the band Go To Blazes who moved to Philadelphia in the late ’80s, and pretty much dominated the local roots rock scene for a decade.  Like Dan Montgomery, Heyman is a storyteller,  with an equally massive knowledge of the music.  Heyman also has the musical chops to get exactly the sound and mood he is aiming for.

That Cool Blue Feeling (Bohemian Neglect Recording Works) is his third solo album, but his second of all original material.  Recorded in Portland, Oregon with a trio of musicians, the overriding mood of the album is one of midnight to morning contemplation that takes place in a haze of pacing the floor desperation.  Relationships are always on the verge of crumbling, the daily grind of work/sleep/work is little more than that as the clock is constantly ticking resulting in a dance of daily resignation while the road, of course traveled only at night constantly beckons, though the protagonist in the songs knows he’s probably too old for the adventures of his youth.  At the same while dreams may be drowned in the ongoing charade, giving up and quitting are never options.

Heyman has a vivid writing style and a knack for capturing everyday situations in a way that makes the listener instantly relate, whether it’s taking the trash out and knowing someone’s going to come and collect the bottles or coming home between midnight and dawn, getting stoned and watching the shopping channels on TV.


Influences of innumerable musicians and musical styles can be detected throughout the album in a clearly on-purpose way.  Heyman knows way too much about music and record making for it to be otherwise, but the point is Heyman makes all these styles his own though most of the songs are fairly straight rock and roll imbued with a Memphis soul and funk edge.  But there’s nods to folk and folk rock, Tom Waits, and Gordon Lightfoot among many others.

There are so many strong songs and performances on this album, I’m hesitant to put one above another.  But the descriptions of late night existence in both “Cool And Blue” and “In The Nighttime World,” where on the latter Heyman’s vocal reminds me Al Green at his most laidback.  Heyman’s storytelling skills on “Time And Money” and “Chickenhawks and Jesus Freaks” are beyond excellent.

Heyman also ends his album with a solo track, the self deprecating “Losers Like Me,” sung over softly finger-picked slightly bluesy guitar.Tom Heyman and Dan Montgomery can usually be found playing bars and clubs in their respective cities, and every so often they may hit the road for small tours.  Both these albums deserve to be picked up by American radio and more in a major way. -


If you’ve seen any number of rootsy San Francisco bands since the late ’90s, there’s a good chance Tom Heyman was in one of them. He’s usually the first on the go-to list when anyone in Northern California needs accompaniment from a top-shelf pedal-steel player—or if you need someone to help arrange your sprawling soul review. He’ll even bring his guitar along and play the rhythm and lead parts of two guys. Heyman has played and/or recorded with folks like John Doe, Paula Frazer, John Vanderslice, Girls, Bart Davenport, David Dondero, Mojo Nixon, Chuck Prophet, the Court & Spark and Penelope Houston (to name a few). Heyman’s own material resonates with the rich tones of a guy who knows what sounds best in front of a microphone. His bourbon baritone voice is weathered, sometimes breaking up with the angst of a brewing bar fight, other times whisper-singing with the weary hiss of a guy who won the very brawl he tried to stop in the first place. Heyman’s knack for penning arresting narratives is shoehorned somewhere between the darker corners of Gordon Lightfoot and the boiler room of Mark Lanegan. His 2005 album, Deliver Me, was championed in British music magazines MOJO and Uncut, landing a handful of his songs on soundtracks to television shows such as True Blood, Justified, and Damages. “Black Top”—the first song from his fourth solo album, That Cool Blue Feeling—best exemplifies Heyman in his element: He’s got a penchant for turning that slow-burning J.J. Cale boogie into his own smoldering groove. He cut “Black Top” and Blue Feeling’s nine other songs in four days, start to finish, armed with a quiver of weird old pawnshop gear—including a Harmony H1260 Sovereign acoustic that’s so wide he can’t find a hardshell case for it, a Kay Truetone archtop, a Teisco “Sharkfin” solidbody, and a vintage Airline 9004 amp. Check out the amazingly subtle tremolo undulating from this baby’s stock 15" speaker! – Premier Guitar

Left coast-based singer/songwriter Tom Heyman began his career in the City of Brotherly Love in the late 1980s fronting roots rockers Go To Blazes. Writing and singing songs and playing guitar for the band, GTB kicked out five well regarded long players before splitting up in 1997. Heyman soon after made the move to the Bay Area where he found work initially as a sideman for the likes of Chuck Prophet, Mark Eitzel and John Doe, but always with the goal of forging his own path with at this date, has yielded several solo albums. That Cool Blue Feeling is his latest and it’s a winner. It’s an album full of melancholy with straight-up songs that grow on you. As Heyman tells it, “The intention of That Cool Blue Feeling was to create a sound that combined the loose, late night, low down groove of JJ Cale with the bittersweet melancholia of late period Nick Lowe and the melodic storytelling of my hero, Gordon Lightfoot. The Bakersfield Sound might spring to mind as well.” All of 10 songs, That Cool Blue Feeling is a cohesive collection that hits all the mile markers laid out by Heyman ranging from the biographical leanings of “Time and Money” to the Bakersfield injection given “Number 9”. Listening to them, there’s a confessional feeling to the songs such that it hasn’t been all wine and roses for Heyman. It only adds another dimension to this under-the-radar affair making it even more worth seeking out. - Southern Rhode Island Newspapers


In a city like San Francisco, obscured by a foggy haze of its own coolness and cynicism, it is rare to to hear a narrative voice as earnest as Tom Heyman. From his third solo album, That Cool Blue Feeling, “In the Nighttime World” chronicles one lonely night in the life of a city bartender as he works his shift, walks home alone through the empty streets, and finally arrives to his couch where he “slowly gets stoned” and watches TV while reflecting on life and love. Something about the classic country storytelling style combined with Heyman’s subtle and unaffected husky vocals harkens back to Kenny Rogers in his prime years. The vibe and sensibility of this song makes me think Heyman might not be offended by this comparison (certainly intended as a compliment). The production and songwriting here are pitch-perfect and the brilliantly produced video that accompanies the track was shot at The Make-Out Room, one of SF’s most famous haunts. .


Back in the late '80s and into the '90s, Tom Heyman wrote songs for and played guitar in Go to Blazes, a roots-rock outfit that was one of the best groups the city had to offer. Now a solo artist based in San Francisco, where he moved in 1998, Heyman returns to town with his first album in nine years. That Cool Blue Feeling maintains the high quality, and the title accurately reflects the vibe of the album. Heyman deftly tells downbeat and bittersweet stories as the music moves from the low-down, J.J. Cale-like groove of "Black Top" to the countryish strains of "Time and Money" and "Number 9" and the ringing rock of "Keep the River on Your Right" before concluding with the stark, acoustic "Losers Like Me." – Philadelphia Inquirer



Singer/songwriter Tom Heyman got his start in the late 1980s with Philadelhia-based outfit Go to Blazes before striking out on his own in 2000 with “Boarding House Rules” and again in 2005 with the even-better “Deliver Me.” It has taken almost a decade for Heyman to release a third album, but the fantastic “That Cool Blue Feeling” proves well worth the wait. This is a sterling collection of 10 folk-tinged tunes that showcases Heyman’s solid writing chops and his rich baritone voice. After getting off to a so-so start with “Black Top,” Heyman finds his groove and unveils a series of keepers in “Cool and Blue,” “Keep the River on Your Right,” “Chickenhawks and Jesus Freaks,” “Jack and Lee” and closer “Losers Like Me.” Here’s hoping we won’t have to wait so darn long for his next album. – Pittsburgh in Tune

Heyman’s career began in the ‘80s when he helped drive the band Go To Blazes to roots rock glory. He’s since been in the bands Map of Wyoming and The Court and Spark, as well as doing solo records and sessions. While nearly a decade has passed since his previous platter, That Cool Blue Feeling maintains the same quality. Having left the Sonsey brio of GTB behind, Heyman trucks in Americana that’s more Merle Haggard and Townes Van Zandt than anything cranked out of Nashville. Keep the River on Your Right”, “cool and Blue” and “Jack and Lee” shine with country soul, calling little attention to themselves, but still sticking to the ribs. God may hate”Losers Like Me”, but anyone with a heart won’t share that deity’s opinion.  

Big Takeover, Issue 75