Hope And Unity With Bill Toms

Bruce Von Stiers

When he sings, Bill Toms sometimes has a sort of gravelly sounding voice. And that's a good thing. Bill has a style of music that mixes blues with soul and throws in some Americana with a sliver of rock.

Bill has had a musical career that has spanned three decades. He started out in Pittsburg, playing with Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers. Later, as a solo act, Bill opened for artists such as Buddy Guy and Levon Helm.

Along the way, a band got formed that backs Bill up. The group is known as Bill Toms & Hard Rain.

Bill and the band are releasing a new album at the end of April. The title of the album is Keep Movin' On. The album is being released on the Terraplane Records label.

Keep On Movin' was produced and recorded by Rick Witkowski at Studio L. The album has ten songs and a play time of forty-three minutes.

On the album, Bill plays guitar and does the vocals. The guys in the band backing him up are Steve Binsberger on keys, Phil Brontz on saxophone, George Amer on trumpet and Steve Graham on trombone. There is also Tom Breiding on guitar, Simone Masha, Tom Valentine and Jim Spears on bass and Bernie Herr on drums and percussion. Rick Witkowski also played drums, bass and guitar, along with some backing vocals. The other backing vocals were done by Stevie Wellons and Bubs McKeg. And Will Kimbrough played guitar for a couple of the songs on the album.

2020 proved out to be extremely hard for anyone to be able to record an album. But as many of his peers did, Bill and this cadre of musicians did socially distanced recording. Nobody was in the studio at the same time. Bill recorded most of his guitar music at home and most of the other musicians recorded at home as well.

Still Got Love is the first song. It has a toe-tapping beat. It's about still having love when everything else goes away. Along with great guitar work there is some really nice horn sounds in the song.

Everybody's Talking has a rocking blues sound. There is some really cool guitar and horn music in it. But right in the middle of the song there are super cool keys, sax and trumpet solos.

Come To Me slows things down quite a bit. It is a gentle ballad.

Man's Soul Is On Trial is a somewhat moody piece with strong keys and guitar backing Bill's vocals.

Ain't No Walking Back is a head-bopping, cool rocking blues song. As with most of the other songs on the album, there is some really good horn music in the song. And there are a couple of guitar riffs that are nice too.

Keep Moving On is a moderately paced balled about moving on in life when things aren't going as well as they should be. There are some good backing vocals and some tough keyboard work behind Bill's vocals.

Walk In my Shoes is a tough, rocking blues song. Great horns and slick guitar music made this my favorite song on the album.

Business on a Higher Ground is a slightly moody ballad. Again, Bill makes good use of the keys, guitar and horns to accompany his vocals.

Things move back up-tempo with the toe-tapping song I know.

The album ends with the song American Dreamer. It deals with being an immigrant child and growing up to love America and what the country once stood for. One lyric resonated with me. It was” I'm just like you, I'm the red, white and blue, I'm an American Dreamer.”

Even though I didn't hit upon this, each song on the album has a strong message. Man's Soul Is On Trial is about becoming unified instead of divided. And many of the songs reflect that even though many people have felt alone and isolated this past year, it's time to move on to a happier, brighter future.

Bill Toms brings forth a perspective of hope and unity in his songs. From bluesy ballads to toe-tapping blues rock, the album is really good.

Keep Movin' On is set to be released on April 30, 2021.

To find out more about Bill Toms and Hard Rain, visit Bill's official web site at www.billtoms.com .

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© 2021 Bruce E Von Stiers