Tom Catmull is a songwriter(transplanted Texan) based out of Missoula, MT. He likes very much what he does. This includes telling stories, making acoustic and electric guitar sounds and then using them to wrap words around a melody. He also likes singing quite a bit. Most of the songs he sings are technically his, but they all pull/borrow/steal shamelessly from the traditions of country, blues, folk and pop music. He also likes words. The harmonica is mostly just for flavor and to help us both pass the time. Pause for a moment here. Close your eyes. Are they closed? Ok, now continue reading. Imagine John Gorka trying to impress the late Townes Van Zandt over a Rueben sandwich in a brewery. The town is Wallace, Idaho. They are both dressed appropriately for the early spring weather and seem in good spirits. The pitcher between them is mostly empty, save the last half glass that each of them knows might put an end to the evening. The leader of the band that is wailing in the corner forgot to pack the groups’ “lucky tip jar”. Again. The rhythm section is slightly annoyed, but mostly just disappointed. The song they are playing(almost rehearsing, it seems) is about a hobo who’s madly in love with the framed sketch of a movie star actress he carries around in his duffle bag. The sketch is in the duffle bag, not the actress. Wait a second. Did that thing just move?
Tom Catmull’s Last Resort
This, on the other hand? An entirely different beast! The band is an all original rock/pop four piece. The current line up of musicians includes…
Travis Yost-harmony, electric bass and intangibles
Gibson Hartwell-pedal steel and electric guitars and harmony
Tom Catmull-songs, acoustic and electric guitar, harmonica, crooning
Gary William Longsine
“…if you haven’t seen the new incarnation of Tom Catmull‘s band, “get yourself a number and get in line with the rest…” the sound is deeper, a little darker but honest, not maudlin. The stand up bass of John Sporman and percussion of Travis Yost draw your subconscious mind into the story, “I swear to you baby I ain’t never gonna do it again!” gritty with a clear-eyed but reluctant ache for the bliss of ignorance so many around seem to enjoy, denied the pathologically observant poet and the troubadour.”
“Tom Catmull has been around the Montana music scene quite a bit. He’s fronted bands like Tom Catmull and the Clerics, performed solo, and now his latest effort, Radio Static, is making its mark. Based out of Missoula, Tom Catmull’s Radio Static harkens back to the vibe of old-school, ’60s classic rock just as much as it sounds truly original and unique. Tom’s cohorts on this project, bassist John Sporman and drummer Travis Yost, provide an invaluable backbone and rawness to the band. Over the past couple months, they’ve been gradually releasing new songs via Facebook, which add up to a full-length—and completely free—album by the end of the summer.”
Tom Catmull and the Clerics might be one of Montana’s favorite bands, but they should be one of the country’s favorites as well. Glamour Puss is a nicely done record with blends of roots, rockabilly, and rock all constructed into a great project that is a pleasant surprise to the listener who has likely never heard of these guys. The record rolls smoothly from tunes that are different from each other in style and substance. One tune may sound like the Old 97s and another might sound like something Roger Clyne would do. It is a sure bet these guys spend lots of time listening to lots of good tunes on those long Montana winter nights. This record was a welcome pleasant surprise.
The new record is not so much a departure for Tom and his band, but a big step up and forward. Catmull’s songwriting has always been top notch, it is just better this time around. The sound of the recording is improved (it was recorded at Club Schmed Studios in Missoula, and mixed in Seattle at the Imperial Room); hell, the band just sounds better, period.
Enter Glamour Puss, where the first song out of the chute signals an album with balls. “Change Your Mind” is a gritty, bluesy shuffle propelled by Travis Yost’s crisp drumming and John Sporman’s popping doghouse bass. Catmull’s AM-radio vocal is supple and understated, adding just a hint of menace to the song.
The real star of Glamour Puss, though, is Gibson Hartwell’s stellar electric guitar work. Muscular in some places, twangy in others, pretty when it needs to be, his playing is always articulate and sure-handed. Happily, he gets to cut loose more than ever on this album. It rocks.
Mixing styles and substance with a decidedly quirky view of life, Catmull has clearly continued his upward arc as a songwriter, and his band feels and sounds most excellent.
These guys are damn good! KTHX listeners may remember the early days of X-radio and all those great Hacienda shows with a young Robert Earl Keen…that’s the kind of energy and fun that Tom Catmull and the Clerics bring to mind. Throw in a bit of Todd Snider, Will Kimbrough, some touches of Jerry Jeff and mix that with some wry wit like Tom Waits and Dan Hicks…very tasty! Plus…talking with Tom and the band…they are genuine good guys with great attitudes…You’ll be hearing a lot of them on the show!
This album has more of a country feel than Catmull’ s previous releases, but I mean authentic, traditional country. Not that plastic, soft-rock ringtone bait they’ re churning out these days in Nashvegas. Right from the first listen, TC&C is polished, confident, and achieves a consistent level of musical and lyrical poise, yet is as comfy and easygoing as an old leather jacket. It’ s tasty. It’ s chewy. Hell, by the fourth song, you want to spread cream cheese on the damn thing and eat it.
“Fans of country-rock, folk and just plain good music will testify to these Clerics.”
Tom Catmull straddles genres like a bow-legged cowboy on a mountain bike. Too mellow for a rocker, too enamoured of the pedal steel guitar for a folk musician, and not nearly twangy enough to be called a proper country crooner, Catmull probably won’t ever find a natural home for his music on today’s intensely sub-genrefied radio dial.
But to his fans – who number plenty around western Montana – the ambiguity of Catmull’s musical identity is probably exactly the point of his appeal.