Tommy Talton in Europe
Someone Else's Shoes – Hittin' the Note Records
Bill Thames review from Hittin' the Note #57
In the past two years, Tommy Talton has stunned the Southern music scene with a new band, a new determination and a steamer trunk full of exceptional new music. Some of the new music was brought back from Europe, where Talton had lived for some time.

The work that Talton did in the 1970s with collaborator Scott Boyer and Cowboy, Gregg Allman, Sandlin and Stewart and other artists signed to Capricorn Records, and Talton's recent work with Capricorn Rhythm Section, are appreciated widely by music aficionados, but the songs Tommy wrote over the last 15 years have gone virtually unheard – until now. Tommy Talton in Europe showcases cherry-picked recordings by the two bands that Talton has led most recently.

The 13 tracks assembled for this CD offer an insightful strut through material as complicated and sundry as Talton himself, culminating near the dusty intersection of soul, blues and Southern-tinged roots rock. From the very start, Tommy Talton in Europe ushers the listener back to a time when most believed there was a great recording for every mood and there was a mood for each recording.

The first eight tracks of Tommy Talton in Europe were recorded in 1995 in the small village of Schifflange, in the south of Luxembourg. These tunes were recorded while Talton was working with members of Albert Lee's backing band, a band Tommy dubbed the Rebelizers. A successful group of stellar musicians, the Rebelizers worked extensively in Luxembourg, Germany, Belgium and France. They included Talton (all guitars/lead vocals), Peter Baron (drums/percussion/harmony vocals), Chris Janssen (fretless bass guitar) and Mike Bell (all keyboards/string arrangements).

The final five "bonus tracks" were recorded in drummer David Keith's Gintown Studios in Graysville, AL with the Tommy Talton Band in 2006 and 2007. The musicians on the "bonus tracks" are Tommy Talton (all guitars/lead vocals), David Keith (drums/percussion/harmony vocals), Brandon Peeples (bass and harmony vocals), and Tony Giordano (keyboards and harmony vocals).

Tommy Talton in Europe bolts out of the chute with "Restless," an in-your-face, relationship romp. Talton wears his attitude and feelings way out on his sleeve, and somehow balances soul, rhythm and raunchiness, while "In the Middle of the Night" brings Talton's tenacious R&B texture bubbling to the surface. "Time Will Never Change," another R&B masterpiece, begins with an inspirational piano and fretless bass intro, pushing the melody forward and beckoning the rest of the song to follow. The entire band eventually falls in with Talton, laying lyrics and stunning guitar notes over a featherbed of rhythmic comfort. Finally, like a soft summer breeze, tasteful strings gather Talton's final notes and steal them away. "Tired of Living" is an exquisite, breezy dobro and piano-driven melody that is destined to play over and over in the listener's subconscious. Talton draws heartfelt sympathy from his guitar, and leads Bell's piano deeper into a one-way melody that refuses to finish until it balances on the head of a pin.

It is hard to imagine a group of European musicians putting together a funky, barrelhouse cavort like "The Got Song" or a rollicking, slide-driven blues like "How Come People Act Like That," but the players from Luxembourg are the real deal, and they have the chops to follow Talton wherever his musical muse leads him. "God Save Everyone" is a song thick with emotion and passion that has the feel and drive of a live, orchestra-driven rock anthem. "Someone Else's Shoes" is crafted passionately and crooned with a smoky, mid-tempo, road-weary steadiness that turns richer and more resonant every time it's played.

From this point on, the musicians change, but the complexity of the music does not. Like many of the other tracks here, "Baby I'm On Your Side" and "Wake Up Ready" are vaguely reminiscent of seminal Cowboy recordings, but the similarity ends as the songs become ultimately more complex musically and lyrically. "Things" and "Sit Here In the Sun" offer Talton's lyrical aptitude and tasteful guitar licks on a fresh new platform, driven by his seemingly unending R&B sensibility. "Broken Pieces" stands as the perfect punctuation, adding a touch of refinement and sophistication to an already incredible recording.

Throughout Tommy Talton in Europe, Talton delivers a cool, genuine old school aura that is both natural and refreshing. It is nice to hear Tommy's music once again, for it is like revisiting an old friend. Talton does his own thing in his own way and at his own pace, which has been this old Cowboy's stock-and-trade all along.

Tommy Talton:
Back to a Time
by Bill Thames

Rhythm & blues is not a complex musical style, and nobody understands this better than vocalist and guitar master Tommy Talton. Like other veteran R & B musicians, Talton does not care how fast he can play. He does not care how many chord changes he can fit into a measure, or how many tempo changes he can build into one song.

What Talton does care about is texture, restraint, touch, and feel. He cares most about those notes that remain unplayed. Tommy Talton has spent his entire career searching out just the essential notes. Never showboating or grandstanding, he lays back, letting his refined flair for lyrical melodies and his velvety-guitar hooks speak for themselves.

It was his laid back technique that catapulted Talton from Macon, GA to sold-out dates at Carnegie Hall with the Gregg Allman Band, ultimately out-drawing ex-Beatle George Harrison at the Fillmore West. Listening to Talton turn a finely crafted song is like watching a lathe-smith turn a fine piece of wood. Talton's extraordinary songwriting ability delivers material with a texture and theme that resonates freshness no matter where or when his music is played. You would never expect this magnitude of talent coming from a musician that grew up, not in New York City, LA, or Chicago, but in uncontrived, pre-Walt Disney World central Florida.

Talton's earliest musical influences came from the family radio, while listening at age four with his mother to sing-along favorites like Patti Page's 1953 hit "How Much is That Doggie in the Window?" By 1956 Talton recalls listening to vinyl with his older sister as Elvis sang "Hound Dog," and then rifling her record collection for other gems.

At age eight, before he ever picked up a guitar, Talton would sneak a transistor radio under his pillow at night, and stay awake for hours, listening to local Orlando radio stations WDBO, WHOO, or WLOF. Tommy began developing an early ear for musical nuances - he noticed how the guitar and drummer played against each other, or how the keyboard worked together with the drummer and the vocalist. Talton paid particular attention to flawless harmonies, listening to vocal groups like the Everly Brothers sing classics such as "Lucille" or "Cathy's Clown." While most boys his age were still mastering the bottom row of the big crayon box, Talton had taught himself the primary musical shades, hues, and tones of an art that would become his life's passion.

Talton's early musical influences seemed as endless as the Central Florida orange groves that spread in every direction from early-1960s Orlando. If doomed to hear only one record on a deserted island for the rest of his life, however, Talton said it would be "You Send Me" by Sam Cooke. "Everything is perfect about that song - his vocal, the lyrics, the approach, the feeling that he conveys, and the texture of the recording. That song is the perfect vehicle for recording a musical feeling and emotion - it covers it all."

Tommy Talton began playing guitar and writing music in the early '60s. He soon landed a job in a central Florida group called the Nonchalants that morphed into the Offbeets, that eventually became We the People. We the People garnered local attention, challenging the likes of the Night Crawlers and the Allman Joys for stage time. Talton and We the People played throughout Florida and as far north as Kentucky, chasing that elusive hit record. Appearing at a variety of teen clubs, nightclubs and armories, We the People eventually settled into the beer-infused Southern fraternity circuit, playing primarily at FSU and the University of Florida. It was during late-night drives back home from fraternity gigs at Florida colleges when Talton discovered a radio station from Nashville, TN that turned his musical world on its ear.

Talton and other central-Florida teens who were in the know discovered one of the closely-guarded secrets of that era. On clear nights, after 10 PM when atmospheric conditions were just right, they could tune their AM radios to 1510, and something extraordinary would happen. The music that crackled forth from those tiny AM radio speakers was as opposite from his mother's Perry Como records as it could possibly be. Like musical manna falling from the night sky, WLAC would offer a magical cornucopia of innovative, dangerous, and often scandalous music from the likes of Chuck Berry, Jimmy Reed, Lowell Fulson, Lightnin' Hopkins, Muddy Waters, Little Junior Parker, the Spaniels, Sonny Boy Williamson, Howlin' Wolf and Etta James, to name a few. It was on these late-night sojourns across the Florida darkness that John R, WLAC's after-hours disc jockey, offered up the musical communion that would ultimately influence Talton the most as a songwriter - rhythm and blues.

After several years of wading through a sea of stale beer cups on fraternity house stages with We the People, and garnering only moderate recording success with that band, Talton met another songwriting powerhouse in Florida by the name of Scott Boyer. Talton quickly decided that it was time to move on. Boyer and Talton eventually joined forces, moving to Jacksonville where they put together the band that would eventually become the Capricorn Records group, Cowboy. Talton recalls that Cowboy received a little help on their way to a successful touring and recording career from Boyer and Talton's old friend, Duane Allman.

"On nothing more than Duane Allman's recommendation, Phil Walden signed Cowboy to a contract, sight unseen," said Talton. "I don't know what Duane said to Phil, but a week later we had management, publishing, and booking contracts in the mail. That's how much influence Duane had with Phil. I'd bet that has not happened to another band, before or since."

Allman's influence blanketed the Southern music business in those days, carrying weight with almost everyone that he had contact with. Talton fondly remembers the subtle way in which Allman influenced his guitar playing - and he Allman's.

"I loved Duane, but you know what? The thing that I learned from Duane was feeling. He always played with so much feeling, and emotion. We'd sit down, just the two of us, at the old Capricorn Studio in Macon, and enjoy playing for each other for hours and hours. There was never any jealousy or envy. We just liked to show each other things that we were working on." Joseph "Red Dog" Campbell, the Allmans' infamous roadie, recalls walking into the studio at Capricorn on more than one occasion, and seeing Allman and Talton in a little room off to the side, sitting in chairs facing each other, locked into a firestorm of hot licks and cool slippery fills.

"When I'd see Tommy and Duane in there playing, I'd know right away, no matter how much I wanted to go in and listen, that is where I shouldn't be, because it was a private thing," said Red Dog. Talton remembers those private moments with Duane Allman all too well. "What we were doing was showing each other licks, and enjoying each other's company as musicians."

Talton had another very private moment in the Capricorn studios when Joni Mitchell happened to be down in Macon with James Taylor, who was recording with his brothers at the time. Joni started by picking up a guitar, and showing Talton a couple of her songs. Then he reciprocated by playing a couple of his songs for her.

"One of my songs that I played for her was 'Josephine, Beyond Compare,' said Talton, "and she got real quiet, and just sat there for what seemed like forever, looking very serious, and finally she asked me, 'Would you please play that again?' You know, in my experience, you don't run across that kind of interest very much when songwriters get together - they want to show you their own songs, and that's it. It's moments like those that no one knows about that are my fondest memories as a musician - moments like sitting around with Duane trading licks, or swapping songs with Joni Mitchell - those are priceless."

While in Macon through most of the '70s, Talton was a studio musician recording with artists such as Bonnie Bramlett, Martin Mull, Corky Lang of Mountain, Duane and Gregg Allman, Dickey Betts, Clarence Carter, country legend Kitty Wells, Alex and Livingston Taylor, Arthur Conley of "Sweet Soul Music" fame, and more. He toured extensively throughout the U.S. with Cowboy, and as special guests with Gregg Allman's Laid Back Tour, from Carnegie Hall to the Fillmore West in San Francisco, and most cities in between.

During his time with Gregg, Talton recalls some memorable shows that he played for an extraordinary promoter, and remarkable man that he eventually came to know well - Bill Graham.

"One night on the Gregg Allman Tour, we were onstage with our instruments waiting for Bill Graham to introduce us at the Fillmore West, and right across the bay in Oakland, Graham was also promoting a show with George Harrison. Graham came up behind me, on his way out to the microphone, patted me on the butt, and whispered in my ear, 'Tommy, how does it feel? You guys just outdrew one of the Beatles!' "

Talton remembers Graham as a wonderful promoter, and a warm person that didn't take guff from the uppity bands that would eventually come into his venues to play. Talton and Graham often joked about the prima donna bands with contracts that demanded certain temperatures in the dressing rooms, or only Courvoisier Cognac or Remy Martin to drink, or real silverware, and on, and on - ridiculous requests. "Those were the kind of people that Bill Graham detested, and wouldn't put up with," said Talton.

Also, according to Talton, Graham detested unruly crowds that heckled the opening acts that he booked to the Fillmore's stages. Talton remembers Graham stepping out on the stage, interrupting a Cowboy warm-up set at the Fillmore East, when hecklers started hollering, "Bring on the Allman Brothers." Graham heard the hecklers hollering at Cowboy twice, and then, to the amazement of the audience, between songs he came to the microphone, short-fused, and made an announcement to the crowd.

"I work hard to bring high-quality music in so that you can learn something and enjoy yourselves, and hear something that is above average," Graham started. "Anybody who thinks that what they are hearing here is substandard, can either shut up or walk out right now, and I'll give you all your money back, and you can hit the street."

According to Talton, "About that time, someone on the front row mouthed off to Graham, and he jumped off the stage, and had the security guards pick the mouthy mushroomhead up, drag him up the aisle, and toss him out on the street. That's how strong his feelings were for 'quality music,' as he put it." Around 1975, Talton joined forces with Johnny Sandlin and Bill Stewart as Talton, Stewart and Sandlin, and released an album on Capricorn Records under that name. After leaving Capricorn, Talton lived and toured in Europe throughout the '90s and formed a group called the Rebelizers with members of Albert Lee's band, Hogan's Heroes. Talton returned to the U.S. a few years ago, settling in Marietta, GA, where he continues to write, record and play. Talton also plays guitar and sings with the historic Capricorn Rhythm Section, which includes old friends and band mates, Boyer, Stewart, Sandlin and Paul Hornsby. Talton has recently formed the dangerously-aggressive sounding Tommy Talton Band, consisting of Brandon Peeples on bass, Tony G. on keys, David Keith on drums and John Kulinich on guitar. Remember these names and watch out for this band!

No filler and no frills, the Tommy Talton Band struts emotional, gut-wrenching R&B, spiced with sophisticated jazz, adding just a pinch of unique folksy Americana. Talton pens the kind of emotional music that soars off the stage, ripping through the heart, reaching deep down, wrapping itself around the musical soul. He writes insightful, clever lyrics that invite the listener into Talton's own mystical, moody and melodic world. Talton tugs at the heartstrings one moment with his lyrics, and then he hits the audience with a slide guitar driven one-two to the mind - all performed with cleverness, intensity and intelligence.

By and large, it is as rare as horse feathers in a pillow to recommend musicians or artists with unbridled abandon. Typically, one person's stack of musical CD treasure is another's bathroom doorstop, making such recommendations tenuous at best. In the case of Tommy Talton, however, there is no possible way to over-endorse him. Grab your hat, dust off your listening ears and prepare to be impressed by one of the finest singer/songwriters/guitarists in the South!

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