Album Reviews

Bill Toms & Hard Rain (featuring The Soulville Horns)

Good For My Soul

Artist:     Bill Toms & Hard Rain

Album:     Good For My Soul

Label:     Terraplane Records

Release Date:     10.27.2017

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Bill Toms was lead guitarist for Pittsburgh, PA’s legendarily rambunctious band, Joe Grushecky and The Houserockers. Sports Illustrated called them “The Best Bar Band” in America, and they opened for Stevie Ray Vaughn, Bob Dylan, Little Feat and Bruce Springsteen, who loved their boisterous, gritty drive so much that he produced their American Babylon CD (1995). Currently, Bill Toms is touring the US and Europe, promoting a new rock ‘n’ soul CD. It’s bound to appeal to fans of poetic, working-class rock that frees you up to feel, think and dance.

Staffed mainly by former members of the Houserockers with 20 years of shared experience, Hard Rain sounds well-rehearsed yet feels spontaneous. The players are Tom Valentine (bass), Tom Breiding (guitars), Phil Brontz (tenor sax), Bernie Herr (drums), Steve Binsberger (piano, organ), Steve Graham (trombone), J.D. Chaisson (trumpet). Producer Will Kimbrough sits in on guitars and mandolins.

Toms wrote or co-wrote all 11 tracks, balancing sad and thoughtful words with energetic music, mixing gritty rock with traditional Gospel and soul. By the fourth song, he sounds like someone you’ve known a long time; someone who’s told you what he believes, and a few secrets, too. Standout cuts include “Devil’s Train.” In a soul arrangement with a traditional blues flavor, the percussion will make your shoulders move and your hi-tops tap. In “Working,” an example of great storytelling, a man is so broke, all he has is making love to his woman, but the landlord’s knocking on the door for the rent. “Into The Storm” is so much fun! Phil Brontz’s sax solo is bursting with vitality and the Soulville Horns sound as hot as Pittsburgh BBQ.

Catch Bill Toms on his tour or at the official CD release party at Pittsburgh, PA’s Club Café October 21, 2017.

—Annie Dinerman

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One Response

  1. great review. however only Bernie played in The Houserockers. The rest of the band are all guys with over 30 years as artists. Love the kind words. Message me for all their bios. this record will be loved by everyone who hears it and change most of their lives.