Reviews and Suggestions

CD Review: Bill Toms & Hard Rain “Good for My Soul”

Pittsburgh-based singer-songwriter Bill Toms is an artist that has been writing and performing his own music that draws from several different musical influences. Toms has been described as a combination of a singer, poet, Soul-shouter and guitar slinger. Taking direction from styles such as Rock and Roll, Blues, Soul and even a little Jazz and Folk, Toms creates a style in his music that is rather well-rounded.

During his time on stage, Bill Toms has made quite a name for himself. He has even performed on stage with Bruce Springsteen.

For the last few years, Bill Toms has been writing performing his own music with his band called Hard Rain. Together, the resulting band contains a Blues/Soul feel to their music. And when you add The Soulville Horns into the mix, you end up with a band that would give The Blues Brothers a run for their money. And with the two bands having such similar sounds and styles, it’s rather easy to make the comparison between the two.

Having been around the Pittsburgh music scene for over two decades, Bill Toms has a rather impressive musical library to draw from. When you combine the musical releases of Bill Toms & Hard Rain with the solo material from Toms himself, you end up with a rather large collection of original music. And to add to that rather impressive discography, Bill Toms & Hard Rain just recently recorded yet another album of music. The newest album of music from Bill Toms & Hard Rain is entitled Good For My Soul.

Good For My Soul from Bill Toms & Hard Rain is an eleven-track album of music. To help Toms bring the album to life, he turned to Will Kimbrough and Oscar-winning producer Rick Witkowski. The two men helped Toms bring other albums to life earlier on in his career. Together, the three men created a release that lives up to much of Toms’ other releases.

The Good for My Soul album begins with the track “I’d Be a Rich Man Today”. The track contains a relatively easy pace to the music with a strong, soulful sound. The inclusion of the horns on the track brings the full feel of the band to life. With this track, the singer-songwriter and his band show that they have not lost a step as their style seems just as strong as it was on the band’s last release entitled Deep in the Shadows.

Back to Memphis” is a track that continues a storyline that began on the earlier album simply entitled Memphis. On that release, Bill Toms sang the title track entitled “I Won’t Go to Memphis No More”. The track “Back to Memphis” finds the band creating a song that has enough Soul influence to bring to mind Soul legends like Sam & Dave. In fact, “Back to Memphis” contains a sound that brings to mind the song “I Can’t Turn You Loose,” even if just a little bit. But that small influence in the song is enough to make the track “Back to Memphis” feel right at home among other Soul tracks. And with the continuation of the story contained within the track’s lyrics that find Toms making the trip back to the town he once claimed he never return to, “Back to Memphis” feels just as personal as his original track “I Won’t Go to Memphis No More”.

With the track “Nothing Like My Baby,” the full influence of Sam & Dave comes shining through. The song’s Soul influence takes the track back in time as it sounds as if it would have fit right in on AM radio back in the sixties. And with the duet-like vocals on the track to go along with the sixties influence, you can easily imagine Sam Moore and Dave Prater creating the track for Atlantic Records. “Nothing Like My Baby” is easily one of the standout tracks on the newest release from Bill Toms & Hard Rain.

Drawing upon his other influences, the track “Devil’s Train” finds Bill Toms and the band creating a track with a strong Rhythm & Blues feel with a healthy dose of Gospel music thrown into the mix. The track’s lyrics as well as Toms’ gravelly vocals brings to mind the writing style of Tom Waits. During the track, the band creates an extended track that allows for the entire band to jam. The result is a track that has a strong groove to it that will have the listener getting into the music while also doing a little soul searching of their own. “Devil’s Train” is another song that stands out on the Good For My Soul release.

The pace of the album slows down on the track “Hard to Say Goodbye”. The track contains lyrics about reaching the end of life. The lyrics about dying are sung by Toms with a great deal of sadness, creating one of the more emotional moments on the release. On this track, some of Bill Toms’ deeper influences shine through. The track contains, not only some Soul influence, but also a good deal of Folk music influence, as well. That Folk influence appears in the song in the form of a mandolin that helps add a certain layer of sadness to the music.

Good For My Soul from Bill Toms & Hard Rain continues with the “title track” of the release. “Your Love is Good for the Soul” is a piano-based track with a definite Soul influence to it. In fact, the band creates a slightly slow-paced track that brings to mind the full-blown sound of The Blues Brothers Band. Combining Motown and Soul feelings in the music, “Your Love is Good for the Soul” feels like a track that would fit alongside “Shake a Tail Feather” from Ray Charles; especially the version of that song that appeared in The Blues Brothers movie.

The Gospel feel of the track “Devil’s Train” makes a return on the track “I’m Going Home”. In a lyrical style that seems to suggest something more in the words than might actually be there, Bill Toms sings of coming to terms with things that have weighed heavily on him. The track could be interpreted as either religious or not, depending on how you hear the song. “I’m Going Home” is yet another track that will have the listener paying attention to the music on the album.

Bill Toms’ newest album of Good For My Soul continues the musician’s string of powerful albums. Like the last albums of Deep in the Shadows and Memphis, Good For My Soul contains tracks that make use of Bill Toms’ many different musical influences. That multi-layered feel in the music gives each of the aforementioned albums, and especially Good For My Soul, plenty of moments that the listener will enjoy.

For more information, check out the song “Your Love is Good For My Soul“.

For even more information, check out Bill Toms’ PR firm, Michael J. Media

To purchase a copy of Good For My Soul from Bill Toms & Hard Rain, click on the album cover below: