Tom Monahan is an artist who proudly describes himself as Anglo-American, born to an American father from the Appalachian mountains and a mother from the Wirral, here in the UK. His father was in the forces resulting in the family moving from country to country as Tom grew up, this early exposure to a variety of influences has clearly woven its way into the music that the singer-songwriter has made in the years that have followed. Currently based in the North-West of England he is a regular performer at live venues around that area, including an appearance at the world-famous ‘Cavern’ club in Liverpool.
This week sees the release of a new four-track EP ‘Could It Be You’ from Monahan, co-produced with is brother Mike, both in Las Vegas and here in the UK. The material featured was also written by Mike in his cabin in Utah, and reflects deeply personal themes shared by both of the brothers, to sum it up Mike states ‘the songs on ‘Could It Be You’ are all about life, love, death, loss, justice, faith, doubt, family and friendship…the usual stuff‘. Having not collaborated for four years or so it then became a challenge to pin down his brother Tom to sing and record the collection of tracks, not helped by his constant touring schedule. Tom explains the situation and how the brothers ensured that the record could be heard, ‘with the accumulated wear-and-tear of touring and the uncertainties of a record industry, the new EP very nearly didn’t happen at all. I wasn’t sure for a while that I would do any more recording. I had done a fair amount, and the business is in a shambles. But I thought well, hey maybe it would be good to put another one out, tender songs for these harsh times in a complete new genre of music like country. We used to laugh about it when we where kids Dad playing that old Hank Williams stuff whilst he cooked us pancakes with maple syrup for breakfast. Now I would have to say its him laughing at us, but proud as well.”
Title track ‘Could It Be You’ opens the EP in fine style, displaying that Monahan has fully embraced Country music on a touching slow shuffle. Relaxed acoustic guitar strumming and warm fiddle provide a wonderfully traditional sounding backing to a track exploring the theme of moving on with life and the emotional difficulties of doing so. As a singer Monahan has a highly appealing lived-in tone to his expressive vocals, allowing the sentiment of his songs to truly be felt by the listener. ‘She’s My Friend’ recounts what sounds like it can only be based on true life events shared by both Tom and his brother Mike. A mid-tempo ode to true love, cleverly understated in the lyrics which almost playfully play down the relationship but repeated listens reveal the truth. The track has an engagingly unpolished sound, another way in which the EP manages to successfully connect with its audience.
As a reflection on young love and the length of time the heart holds on a to a truly special love ‘Such A Long Time Ago’ is a gorgeous effort. Set to a waltz-like melody, featuring delightful fiddle playing and an incredibly pleasing spoken portion of its second verse, the track is the jewel in the crown of the EP. Reminders of simpler times and indeed simpler (yet more durable) emotions, in what are increasingly more cynical days, are few and far between in modern music so thank goodness for songs such as this. A live recording of edgier track ‘No Shame’ rounds off a greatly rewarding listening experience. Describing a love that both confuses and compels the singer, the conflict of emotions is expertly conveyed by the agitation you can almost feel in the very deliberate guitar picking/strumming and also the angry tone to Monahan’s vocals.
Listening to ‘Could It Be You’ serves as a welcome reminder of why music is so important. Deep emotional themes served up more succinctly and poignantly in Country songs than an hour’s worth of conversation could ever achieve. Kudos to Mike Monahan for penning such strong material and for convincing his brother Tom to get on board and record these tracks. Wonderful for us that they decided to dip their toes in the Country waters and produce an incredibly accomplished début in the genre. Tom Monahan is a singer that you can really believe in and you sense has a strong emotional connection with his music, which makes it all the more captivating for the audience on an enthralling EP.