Crooked Eye Tommy
Hot Coffee and Pain
Blue Heart (Nola Blue)
Crooked Eye Tommy is the brother guitar duo of Tommy and Paddy Marsh, hailing from Ventura County in California. The duo has placed as semi-finalists in the IBC in 2014 and 2019, reaching the finals earlier this year. They leverage that respect with this release, Hot Coffee and Pain, a mix of blues, blues-rock, and roots rock with six originals and three covers. This is their second album and first for Blue Heart Records. The brothers both play guitars on all tracks and trade lead vocals with Paddy leading on five and Tommy on four. They play mostly in a sextet with conventional rhythm section along with keyboards and sax. One of the highlights s a duet written by Tommy, “Baby Where You Been,” that features Grammy nominee Teresa James on piano and vocals.
The brothers have a smooth, groove -laden sound centered on the songs, mostly refraining from long, extended solos and/or the bombast that plagues way too many blues rockers. To be fair, they venture in that direction a couple of times, but it doesn’t weigh down the overall effect. At times they mix in some psychedelia or power chords as they do on the opening cover of Son House’s “Death Letter Blues” which rings with the twin guitars and the swirling B3 from Jimmy Calire, as bassist Samuel Correa and drummer Charlie McClure keep the rhythm. Paddy, who arguably has deeper, more soulful voice, leads on the slow blues of “Sitting in the Driveway,” singing about his struggle with sobriety brought on by tough times. The title track oozes soul, abetted by Craig Williams on sax and a horn arrangement from Calire. “Twist the Sky” is a rocker with a piercing solo from Paddy that pushed the limits of this paragraph’s opening line.
The duet with James is placed right in the middle of the album as it should be – it is the centerpiece of the album, due to James’ vocals, the guitar playing and the full sound of horns. “Angel of Mercy” will sound familiar both to fans of the Grateful Dead and Jonny Lang as it’s a mash-up of Lang’s title with the Dead’s “Mr. Charlie” that becomes a guitar jam workout for the brothers as Calire provides a thick B3 underpinning. It invites the question of why “Mr. Charlie,” a solid blues riff, hasn’t been covered more often. The brothers continue to pace the album well by offering another slow burner, “The Time It Takes to Live.” Then, rather expectedly, they pay tribute instrumentally to one of the more famous brother combinations, Gregg and Duane Allman (the others being the Vaughans, The Everly Brothers and a few more), on “The Big House,” named for the residence of the Allmans in Macon in the early ‘70s and now the band’s official museum. The album concludes with the infectious beat of Sonny Landreth’s “Congo Square,” another showcase for Calire and saxophonist Williams.
Crooked Eye Tommy delivers a solid, animated effort that indicates they could be mainstays on the blues scene for years to come.
- Jim Hynes