Crooked Eye Tommy – Hot Coffee And Pain
Blue Heart Records – 2020
9 tracks; 49 minutes
Crooked Eye Tommy made a strong impression with their debut release Butterflies And Snakes back in 2015. The band is led by brothers Tommy and Paddy Marsh, the strange name deriving from Tommy’s eye condition. As on Butterflies And Snakes the artwork is distinctive and striking. The brothers both play guitar, sing and write, and between them contribute six originals, alongside three covers. The rhythm section is bassist Samuel Correa and drummer Charlie McClure, Craig Williams adds sax to five numbers and keyboard man Jimmy Calire plays Hammond B3 on most tunes as well as adding to the horn section on four cuts for which he wrote the arrangements. Teresa James guests on vocals and piano on one track.
Son House’s “Death Letter Blues” has long been a popular choice to cover with strong interpretations in recent years from Sugaray Rayford and The Hitman Blues Band. CET do a good job with a medium-paced version. All the songs here have plenty of space for the brothers to show their chops but never run to excess and “Death Letter” is no exception as the two guitars snake across each other. Tommy sings this one but Paddy takes over for his “Sitting In The Driveway”, a slow blues in which the guy is hesitant about going into his house as he has been fired and spent the day in the bar! Tommy laments lost love in a soulful setting on the title track with the first involvement of the horns – a sure-fire winner for lovers of soul-blues with a fine sax solo to top it off. Things get heavier with the chugging riff of Paddy’s “Twist The Sky”.
If anything the second half of the album is even stronger, starting with Teresa James sitting in on “Baby Where You Been?”, sharing vocals with Tommy on a slower tune, again with soulful elements which are underlined by the horn arrangement. “Angel Of Mercy” was first recorded on Mike Henderson and the Bluebloods’ 1999 album Thicker Than Water and is here given a tough reading with horns and plenty of guitar. Paddy’s slow tune “The Time It Takes To Live” has some psychedelic guitar phrasing and, at over seven minutes, affords plenty of space for the brothers to weave their patterns, including some dual guitar lines that, inevitably, bring The Allmans to mind. That is probably deliberate as Tommy’s instrumental “The Big House” is next up, a tribute to the ABB and named after the place that is now the band’s official museum in Macon, GA. The tune captures the lightness of touch that the original ABB had on so many of its instrumentals and the duelling guitars, a swinging rhythm section and the B3 certainly evoke the brothers at their best. Hard to follow that, but CET offers up another favourite of many a band, Sonny Landreth’s “Congo Square”, using a full-band production with a blazing horn arrangement, bringing the album to a stirring finale.
Blending elements of Southern Rock, soul and blues, Crooked Eye Tommy has produced another album well worth hearing.