Tom Kell’s This Desert City personifies the “Southern Californian Music” idiom; written and performed in the tradition of the genre, produced and engineered with the audiophile essence that defined the genre, with breathtaking performances by the players and musicians that created the genre.
Tom Kell’s 5th solo album continues to deliver his unique, and yet familiar, songwriting with the quality and craftsmanship that he’s known for, this time taking it to a level of excellence that places his career in its finest hour.
The body of this project is Tom’s undeniably lucid songwriting. There is so much “here and now” reality to his vision that you are swept into the scene, to observe and feel. Whether you’re standing unseen in a hot, ramshackle hotel room somewhere in West Texas listening to a Norte accordion from a faraway radio drifting down the hall, as Tom’s character laments “Maybe drivin’ here was really not that smart” in “Texas On the 4th of July”, or knowing the guy whose “pride and joy is his El Camino” in “Sometimes”, Tom’s cast of characters and backdrop of sobering reality draws from our common literary or literal experience.
For Tom Kell it has always been about the songwriting. From his earliest days as a country-rock pioneer on club and concert stages in his native Seattle and throughout the Northwest, to singing duets with John David Souther, Timothy B. Schmit and Valerie Carter, he has always been lead through his career by his songs. He writes with a unique sense of time and place, and sings with a voice so full of character and heart, that you feel as though you’re standing next to him, seeing the same images, breathing the same moment.
This music is as timeless as it is rare, and is delivered by a band of LA players so perfectly assembled, that it could easily be Tom’s most accomplished work. Tom is joined by Jeffrey Cox, his long-time production and engineering collaborator, in the Producer’s chair and returning studio mates Kenny Edwards (Karla Bonoff, Linda Ronstadt), Bob Glaub (Jackson Browne, John Fogerty and too many to name) and Greg Leisz (Eagles, Robert Plant/Alison Krauss, kd lang, Dave Alvin, Jackson Browne). Don Heffington (Emmylou Harris, Bob Dylan, and Dave Alvin) is featured on drums while Jim Christie (Dwight Yoakam, Lucinda Williams) plays drums for the stunning “Sometimes”. Mark Goldenberg (Jackson Browne) joined for two songs that personify Mark’s sound and feel. Valerie Carter (James Taylor, Jackson Browne, and Little Feat) shines with that undeniable soul and grit that can’t be duplicated by any other vocalist. Jonathan McEuen (Hanna-McEuen) is spectacular in his vocal marriage with Tom’s plaintive delivery, throughout the project. David Jackson (J.D. Souther, New West) provides that alt-edge with his nuanced playing, once again proving why you don’t have to Go To Jail if you play an accordion.
This Desert City is an unexpected visit with a superb and gifted songwriter that will feel like an old friend.