Thomas Cunningham's 2004 debut “The Bottle of Wine EP” made an impressive and head-turning introduction for the 20 year old singer / songwriter. Thomas, hailing from Northern California, received an enthusiastic response to this CD from the top 200 CMJ reporting radio stations, generating significant attention at 185 of them.
With his second release, simply titled “Swell” (out june 28, 05), Thomas has teamed up with other local hot-shot musicians to form the “Locofocos”. Thomas Cunningham and the Locofocos have generated a completely fresh look / listen to acoustic rock sounds with nods to Nick Drake, Jack Johnson and Ben Harper by fusing them with a lyrical pattern influenced by Digable Planets and The Roots. Thomas adds to this by explaining, “I'm a really big fan of the way bands like Digable Planets have been able to weave cool hip hop influenced lyrics with an instrument based band, so the new songs are our own blend of acoustic rock with a lyrical twist!” The album also offers up small doses of soulful pop melody found in No You Can't and for rattlesnake country guitar riffs check out Harvest
Tower Records is featuring “Swell” in the listening stations of all 88 US stores for the month of July, 2005.
Matt Lemaire, Drums
Matt Henderson, Bass
Mike Hertzberg, Lead Guitar
Thomas Cunningham, Vocals/Acoustic Guitar
The Bottle of Wine EP (2004)
SWELL - THOMAS CUNNINGHAM & THE LOCOFOCOS
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On “Swell,” northern California-based Thomas Cunningham and the Locofocos make happy, bouncy acousti...On “Swell,” northern California-based Thomas Cunningham and the Locofocos make happy, bouncy acoustic-based rock music that should connect with fans of some of the genre’s better known talents (Jason Mraz, Jack Johnson and G.Love). More interestingly, TC&L takes time to incorporate beats and rhymes in line with the smartest hip-hop currently available (The Roots, Digable Planets) making for a fun, foot-tapping, hip-swaying listen.
The title track is a sincerely delivered poppy romp that dances up a Weezer-with-soul vibe. It and the Mraz-channeling “You Got It Goin’ On” are highlights, as is “Long Goodbyes” which uses a wonderful sing-song lyric, “assholes and whores,” to great effect. Though it’s not completely unique music, it is fun, honest and often more clever than it may sound at first listen. It certainly wouldn’t be a surprise if Cunningham and Co. danced down the same career path as Mraz or Johnson.
SOON TO BE A COLLEGE FAVORITE
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Sometimes you just get a sense about a band or artist. That old Spidey sense is certainly tingling w...Sometimes you just get a sense about a band or artist. That old Spidey sense is certainly tingling when it comes to singer-songwriter Thomas Cunningham. The Northern California-based musician and his backing group, The Locofocos, is currently on tour supporting his latest release, Swell (Emerald City Entertainment Group) and “the feeling” indicates that this group will soon become a favorite on the college circuit. Cunningham’s music sits comfortably on the shelf next to artists like Jack Johnson and Ben Harper and contains elements of jam, acoustic rock and hip-hop. Whether or not Cunningham will be filling large concert arenas like some of his influences remains to be seen but it’s likely that his music will end up wafting through the halls of collegiate dorms before you know it.
JACK JOHNSON JR.
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At first listen, Thomas Cunningham & The Locofocos sound a lot like that singer/songwriter guy named...At first listen, Thomas Cunningham & The Locofocos sound a lot like that singer/songwriter guy named Jack Johnson. With acoustic strumming and a breezy island feel, the Central Valley quartet seems to owe a musical debt to the surfer cum pop star. But dig a little deeper on their eight-song CD Swell, and differences start to emerge. For one, singer/guitarist Cunningham delivers some half-rapped vocals. Even on ballads the inexplicably named Locosfocos have more juice than Mr. Johnson.
THERE IS A CURE FOR THE SUMMERTIME BLUES
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By Steve Rewinski, columnist for The East Hampton Independent. July, 2004, East Hampton, New Yor...By Steve Rewinski, columnist for The East Hampton Independent.
July, 2004, East Hampton, New York – Mid-July always brings with it the mid-summer blues. During that period we’re all in a sort of mood where we don’t want music that’s too heavy, nor too soft. I’ve always found that come mid-July, I’m in the mood for a solid singer-songwriter/acoustic-rock.
The past few years have been perfect for that need, with such artists as Jack Johnson and Ben Kweller hitting the scene and releasing albums that make for the perfect mid-summer blues soundtrack. In my search for 2004’s artist to accompany the July doldrums, I’ve come across California beachy singer-songwriter Thomas Cunningham, and his debut, The Bottle of Wine EP. Cunningham, 19, hails from Davis, CA. His official bio lists his influences as Beck, Ben Harper, Jack Johnson, etc., but at first listen to his EP, I hear more Elliot Smith than Beck and even some Dashboard Confessional (the good side of Dashboard, not the creepy-culty-sell-out side).
Take in mind, EPs are more like demos. They usually have fewer than 10 songs, and sometimes as few as four or five. The Bottle of Wine EP has six of some of the best acoustic rock songs that I’ve heard in a while. Each song takes on a life of its own -- each initial impression (the first chord or so) sets the tone for the next few minutes of each song.
The echoey guitar that intros the Cunningham’s single “The Bottle of Wine” makes way for an enchanting song. Just as the best singer-songwriters do, Cunningham will grab you by both ears, sit you down, and force you to listen to each strum, each drum beat, each word – the greatest singer-songwriters don’t let you casually listen.
When you listen to the first song, you’ll think, “This has to be the best song on the EP,” until you hear the second, then the third, then the fourth, and so on. The EP is like a stairway, each song bringing you a bit higher, moving you up, until you reach the top. Then the only thing you’ll want to do is hear it all again.
Cunningham’s music paints a picture. When I listen to him, I see a group of friends lounging around a blanket at the ocean. It could be any time of day. They’re all laughing, joking, goofing around, and relaxing in the sun. The waves are crashing behind them, and those damned seagulls are attacking anything that may be considered food. He invokes that warm feeling of being 20-something, with nothing to worry about, and nothing to do.
Dr. Rew prescribes and highly recommends Thomas Cunningham for the mid-summer blues. Other artists that would be great for this perennial phenomenon include, aside from the already mentioned Jack Johnson, Ben Harper, and Ben Kweller: Aussie Ben Lee, Texan Elliot Smith, and the magical Rufus Wainwright. Lee teams up with Ben Folds and Kweller to form the aptly named “The Bens,” a trio of amazing singer-songwriters. Smith, recently deceased, will seem familiar because he was featured on the Good Will Hunting Soundtrack. And Wainwright is the only singer that I know who can make the phrase “My phone’s on vibrate for you,” seem romantic.
Check out next week’s when I review the latest from British singer-songwriter gravenhurst.
THE BOTTLE OF WINE EP
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Young blond surfer-ish dude strums his acoustic down by the oceanside. The girls sway around the fir...Young blond surfer-ish dude strums his acoustic down by the oceanside. The girls sway around the firepit as the waves crash, a bottle of wine is passed and the spirit of every beachfront, hippiefied artiste from Jack Kerouac to Jack Johnson is invoked.
Based on the cover art to The Bottle Of Wine EP, it would be easy to dismiss Thomas Cunningham as a caricature. Easy, and wrong.
Yes, Cunningham's instrument of choice is the acoustic guitar, and his vocals in places assume a laconic fireside manner. But the instrumentation here ranges from Cunningham's own intricate playing ("The Bottle Of Wine") to tasteful slide ("Sunset On The Boulevard") to some fairly tasty electric work ("Senseless"). Cunningham goes with full-band arrangements on half these songs and a rhythm section on all of them, giving him a fuller, slightly heavier sound than you might anticipate.
The main thing to be learned from this disc, though, is that this kid (he's 19) can write. His songs have almost a rap feel in places as TC catches the flow and breezes through a dense lyric like the title track, rhyming up a storm and constantly pushing the music ahead. (You can feel the Ben Harper influence there - oh yeah, definitely.)
To his credit, Cunningham also hits some strong emotional notes with lyrics, especially on the rather Shawn Mullins-y "Senseless," whose emotionally co-dependent narrator struggles to rescue a lover who doesn't want to be rescued. "She's such a mess / Thought 'all she needs is a little bit of me," sings Cunningham, and it rings as true as his coda, in which the object of his affection goes from screaming "I can't go on!" to "You can't move on!" at him.
"Chemical Monday" is another nice acoustic-and-rhythm piece about addictions and illusions, with nice little lyrical nuggets like "False hopes never die" and "What a day to die / The day I feel most alive," and some nice organ accents toward the end. The closer to this six-track EP, "Sayonara," is a quirky kiss-off to a long-time relationship whose free-association chorus goes "The days have changed / Now everything, there's no flame"… and actually makes sense, in the context of the verses.
I'll confess I also have to root for Cunningham because he's a local No Cal boy, calling Davis his hometown and publishing this disc on Santa Cruz-based Emerald City. I will definitely be catching a show sometime, preferably without a surfboard in sight. For now, you can catch this EP at www.thomas-cunningham.com.
Enough original material for up to 120 minutes as a full band. Can perform up to 30 minutes of solo acoustic material if desired.
There are no upcoming dates at this time.