CROOKED EYE TOMMY BUTTERFLIES AND SNAKES
Welcome back fellow Kitty Cats and Jammer Kids. Kevin B. returning to drop another review of some blues music for you. In this episode, I’ll be discussing the not necessarily new but new to me album Butterflies and Snakes by the Southern California based group Crooked Eye Tommy.
Brothers Tommy and Paddy Marsh make up
the core of Crooked Eye Tommy. International Blue Challenge semi-finalists (2014 - band) / finalists (2020 - duo), these gentlemen have offered up a varied set of all original tunes on this their first release on their eponymous label. Recorded in Ojai, California, Butterflies and Snakes is described by the band as “a BOLD EXCURSION!” and an “amalgamation of Deep Seeded Blues and Smokey Southern Rock with Big Guitars and even Bigger Vocals.” Strong words from the left coast. Words that C.E.T. ably back up with this album.
The Marsh boys, who each play a mean guitar and handle lead vocal duties, fill out their line-up for this album with a nice, tight group of players including Glade Rasmussen on bass guitar, Tony Cicero on drums, Jimmy Claire (Raven/America) on saxophone, piano and Hammond B3, Bill Bilhou on B3, and Jesse Siebenberg (Supertramp) on steel guitar. Becca Fuchs and Dan Grimm add backing vocals. Each of the seasoned players is top notch at their craft. The production on this effort is clear and robust.
Some stand out tunes on the album begin with “Crooked Eye Tommy”, written and voiced by the man himself. It’s a menacing, propulsive swamp stomp in which Tommy is “…gonna let the world know what a crooked eye can do.” All slide guitars and funky electric piano atop a groove that is heavy enough to rattle walls.
There is some right nice horn and keyboard work in Tommy’s next tune, the latin-spiced “Come On In.” This rhumba lopes along while Tommy likens his broken heart to an empty house , inviting his next love to make herself at home, such as it is.
It’s been said that good musicians borrow, great musicians steal. Brother Paddy takes the lead in the name-checking “I Stole the Blues,” confirming that sentiment. Muddy Waters, Albert King, Johnny Winter, T-Bone Walker and even Jerry Garcia are all given a shoutout. Nice to hear the refrain “… I stole the blues, now it’s time to give it back.”
“Time Will Tell” is a funky workout with some stellar twin-guitar leads ala the great Dickie Betts/Duane Allman joints or even those of Thin Lizzy. If it ain’t killed ya baby, you ain’t dead yet.
“Tide Pool” slides into the mix, slowing things down to a “hug your significant other and sway side to side” vibe. Paddy wonders what will happen to his love; like a tide pool, will it dry up? Be rescued by the sea?
In a shift away from the general “my girl is gone” topics used so much in the blues, C.E.T. add some political takes on two of the tracks: “Somebody Got to Pay” – a shuffle-driven rebuke of elected official money grabs; and “Mad and Disgusted” wherein the lads rail against government overregulation.
Butterflies and Snakes offers up a wide variety of music, culminating in the straight up soulful country feel of “Southern Heart.”
My overall impression on a scale of “Not-a-Fave to Rave” lands this debut effort straight in the middle. Solid songwriting, excellent musicianship and smooth production make the tracks very suitable for a long drive or to help warm ya up before a night out on the town.
Until next time. . . Kevin B.