Tom Ovans – Party Girl (2010)

Posted by on March 19, 2014as

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In any music reviewer’s vocabulary there always seems to be one adjective that get used more than any other: Dylanesque. Say it and people instantly know what you mean. Only a few seconds into this Texas based songwriter’s 11th album you are reaching for the “D word” straight away, but where Bob only took us briefly to Desolation Row, Tom seems to have rented us a room there.

Ovans’ mature, raspy, lived-in voice is reminiscent of Bob Dylan now, with an added dash of Tom Waits. However, this is good stuff in it’s own right and is often elevated beyond the status of a pale, Stars In Their Eyes tribute act. One of the songs- Both Sides of the Night, was originally written in Greenwich Village in 1975, helping to contribute to Party Girl’s golden age of Americana, Blood On The Tracks vibe.

Like Tom Waits, it’s one of those vampiric albums that you tend to only reach for after sundown. We’re hanging out drinking bourbon with the junkies and losers of skid row. As a lyric on Nobody Knows promises “You’ll meet the hustlers, you’ll meet the dream sellers, you’ll meet the boys and the girls building bombs in the cellar”. It’s a dark and moody experience, but sometimes very special.

The album was recorded in only a handful of sessions, while rare ice storms raged outside the studio. You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows and you can almost feel the freezing sleet trying to force it’s way in. The production feels a little raw around the edges, which is prefect for this collection of songs.

The title track breaks the ice brilliantly with it’s simple but memorable blues riff. Swagger is here in abundance and tracks like the grim despair of Hole In My Shoe betray a frustration with the world today. But nestled in amongst the blues rock are the real gems – some beautiful ballads of broken dreams and lost loves, of which Sugar Mama and Ooh Baby deserve special attention.

Ovans seems unlikely ever to shake off the Dylanesqe tag – it seems to work for him and he feels happy with it. The ghost of Bob looms large over this record in more ways than one – it’s ironic that it’s released on the same day as a massive retrospective of Dylan’s career. If Dylan had released this we’d be gushing over it, so it only seems fair that we should give Ovans his credit for a powerful and accomplished collection of songs.

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