Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Tom Leach (1998)

One band that is noticeably absent from this list is Blue Mountain. They are one of a handful of bands that just missed the cut and were painful for me to leave off. That's not to say they don't have a place in all of this, though. They were definitely a significant part of the alt-country heyday and it was at one of their shows that Len and I made a great discovery.

Tom Leach was the opener at that show at TT the Bear's in Cambridge, obviously selected by the local promoter for his potential appeal to Blue Mountain's roots-rocking audience. Also on that bill were Leach's Slow River/Rykodisc labelmates, the Purple Ivy Shadows from Providence, another unfortunately underappreciated band that no longer exists...although there have been rumors of a reunion involving founding members Chris Daltry and Erik Carlson.

Back then, we likened Tom to the second coming of Johnny Cash. Of course, his sound definitely owed a debt to the legends of country music, but his influences turned out to be a little more varied than that. Regardless, he became my first and only favorite local artist of my days in Boston, and quite possibly the artist whom I've seen live the most times, although Shore Leave must be creeping up on that distinction.

I'm not sure if it's deserved, but I give Tom Leach the credit for inspiring Len's golf method of rating songs. Len and I played golf, albeit poorly, together during our high school years, at places we would later hang out late at night drinking, such as College Hill. Len's system was pretty basic, but it worked. Par was a decent song, with a Birdie being a very good song, and an Eagle was one of those songs that would give you goosebumps every time you heard it. We never really bothered to rate songs that were above par, except to refer to those we didn't like by artists we did, as Bogies. I suppose we could have gone further in that direction, considering a golf score can increase infinitely, just as a song can be infinitely bad.

There were a few songs that were identified as Eagles during those numerous Tom Leach shows that we saw back in the day. Unfortunately, I don't know the names of any, and none of them have ever seen the light of day on record. I own the only two official Tom Leach releases, as well as two homemade recordings, but none of them hit the nail on the head in the way that those Plough & Stars shows did. Well, maybe that's a good thing in that it makes them all the more special. I doubt if Tom would've made this particular top 40 otherwise.

He's still recording and playing today, although he moved to Brooklyn several years ago. On a recent visit to the Abbey Lounge, I told him that I haven't had a favorite local artist since he left town. It's sort of like missing a woman so much that you feel like you don't want anyone else, although that feeling eventually passes. Tom Leach still hasn't been replaced, and if my love life was a perfect analogy, it would be pretty sad. Sometimes it feels that way, but it's really not that bad.

The thing of it is, it wasn't just Tom himself that made those songs and those shows and those times so special. It was also the band he assembled and their cohesiveness and chemistry at that particular point in time. What I'm trying to say is, it's not the same without Dave Steele. His amazing guitar playing, background vocals, and Gram Parsons-esque good looks were a major factor in making those experiences so memorable.

And it's also not the same without the guy we called "The Ultimate Tom Leach Fan", an honor that may have been bestowed upon him at the expense of two more deserving fans.

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