Tommy Halloran performs old-timey music anyone would appreciate, but as is often the case, his savvy draws many unusual folks. Tommy, on a first-name basis with practically anyone cool in Saint Louis, has always hung on the fringes. He is to jazz as Uncle Tupelo was to country-western or Steve Earle to bluegrass. He possesses the schooling (both formal and hard-knocks) as well as the "chops" of a great jazzman.
Tommy is, however, a generalist more than a specialist. The basic truths of Delta-blues, swing, Gospel, and Bohemia are deeply rooted in Tommy's songwriting psyche. Like Randy Newman or Tom Waits (who seldom appear in the same sentence), his cooking belies his ingredients. He may not be "Chasin' the Bird", but he's certainly flippin' the bird as a top-rate improviser. In this aspect at least, Tommy embodies the original spirit of jazz. His blues, his bounce, and his ballads rival great musicians from any era.
On this occasion, Tommy sang with his acoustic guitar as the only accompaniment. With his usual bag of original tunes, covers and traditionals, Tommy struck down one singer-songwriter caveat after another. One fan was overheard saying Tommy's 12-bar-blues were the most authentic that he had ever heard live. Tommy's music and ongoing stage banter forms a unique bond with small audiences, and not just because they're mostly family and friends. Whether you know Tommy or not, his memorable songs are ripe with melody, wisdom, humor, and familiarity. After singing the lyrics, "It's the easiest thing in world, loving you, loving you " he stopped, grinned knowingly, and muttered, "that's what you call 'hyperbole'."
For twenty years, the Off Broadway Nightclub has been hosting Grammy award-winning artists and roots-rockers like Matthew Ryan, Richard Buckner, or the Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash. They frequently win "Best Venue in St Louis to Hear Live Music" from both the St. Louis-Post Dispatch and the Riverfront Times. On this hot summer night, it was a native son who reminded everyone where the adjective "bluesy" came from. Tommy Halloran is the real thing.
Cold Water (Tom Waits)
Lullaby for Lily (Fred Friction)
Get Outta Town (Halloran)
The Easiest Thing (Halloran)
Gardenias for Rita (Halloran)
I Said Too Much (Halloran)
Lullaby of the Apocalypse (Halloran)
All of Me (Marks/Simons)
Bring Back My You (Halloran)
Down By the Riverside (traditional)
No Smoke Blues (Leonard Feather)
Medicine Blues (Halloran)
Walking Stick (Irving Berlin)
Buzz Fledderjohn (Tom Waits)
"Tommy Halloran's easy sense of humor and warm, raspy voice make him a standout in the scene"
Riverfront Times, Critic's Pick, November 2004
Tommy Halloran has previously performed with the Ambiguous "They", Lauren Gray's 5-Piece Bucket, the Matt McGaughey Band, Tommy and the Sharks, Rowdy Cum Laudies, Sharkey Farmers, and many others.
-David Seymour is a freelance jazz journalist in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA.