Ian Thomas
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Ian Thomas

Band Folk Americana


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"Ian Thomas - A Young Man’s Blues/Live At Rockwood Music Hall (4 of 5 stars)"

“Rattlesnake Suzie, she is the princess of the pantomime.”. Het zou oud werk van Bruce Springsteen kunnen zijn maar dat is het niet. Dit is de openingszin van Poor Children van Ian Thomas en staat op Live At Rockwood Music Hall. Verder lijkt Thomas niet zo veel op Springsteen. Meer op Dylan. En op Hank. Thomas is een moderne troubadour die folk en blues vermengd alsof er geen andere mogelijkheid bestaat. Het Hank-gedeelte komt erbij door de klank van Thomas zijn stem. Die klinkt als vervlogen tijden. Teeth Of The Rake, van A Young Man’s Blues, klinkt net zo onheilspellend als Hank’s Alone And Forsaken. Want soms is er ook donkere country rock and roll. Thomas leeft in New York, in een oude auto. Hij speelt op straat, in de metro en in de lokale clubs. Ik zou kunnen checken of deze informatie, uit een oude bio, nog steeds van toepassing is op zijn levensstijl maar dat doe ik niet. Ik vind het zo’n romantisch beeld. De oude auto is een Toyota. Dat is eigenlijk zo onromantisch dat het wel waar moet zijn (geweest). Maar toch. Een enorm talent dat miskend lijkt. Dat is romantisch als later de grote doorbraak volgt. Dan kunnen we zeggen dat we hem nog kennen uit de tijd dat hij geen fatsoenlijk dak boven zijn hoofd had en zijn live cd een slecht gekopieerd hoesje had. En dat hij er zelf met pen de titel op krabbelde. Rockwood biedt hij nergens te koop aan op zijn site maar vraag er om! Het loont. (Patrick Donders) - Hanx.net

"Jan 15th, 2007"

Ian Thomas makes you feel like you're in a time warp – he looks and sounds like he is living in 1969 – he may even think it is 1969. He's one of those guys who has a song about the Chelsea Hotel that's in fact a true story. Originally from Vermont, Ian Thomas has been in New York preserving the integrity of old-school talking blues. He evokes the sounds of Woody Guthrie, Rambling Jack Elliot and Bob Dylan's early days. His songs are so good they eclipse his mastery of the kazoo. Go see Ian Thomas play for free any Wednesday night at 9pm this January at Rockwood Music Hall. His live performance is unforgettable. - Karen Rockower - The Deli Magazine

"Editor's Picks"

Tall and thin, Ian Thomas looks somehow elongated when he performs, like a shadow falling across the three-legged stool on which he sits. The book on the wraith-like 24-year-old Thomas is that he spent five years living on the streets, a hobo traveling the land with an acoustic guitar slung over his back. He wound up in New York's East Village, where his current manager heard him sing and started letting him sleep on his couch. Thankfully, the music on Thomas' debut, A Young Man's Blues, lives up to that romance. These are sturdy one-man acoustic performances that reek of whiskey and lost relationships. As a live performer, Thomas is clearly picking up the torch of American folk music. He shakes one dusty-booted foot to keep the time, wears a hat that covers his eyes and sings in a high, sure voice. Young Dylan references are impossible to escape, but Thomas' own sense of commitment gives the old medium fresh legs. His lyrics are layered and painterly, the words of an old soul, replete with images of liquor bottles, hollowed-out faces and lonely nights. "I know I'm alone when I lay by your side," he sings. All that, and he plays a kazoo mounted to his harmonica rack. (Steve Volk)

- Philadelphia Weekly

"Ian Thomas"

Guitar-toting folkie Ian Thomas may reside in New York City, but his sound bypasses the concrete jungle for the deep rural territories of acoustic blues. For a youngster, Thomas has an astonishing command of his sound; this is timeless material expertly performed. Though each of the 12 tracks on "A Young Man's Blues" wakes memories of long-forgotten standards, they are all originals. Thomas effortlessly bounces through jaunty rags, crying ballads and gentle folk, treating each style with casual reverence. Many of the album's cuts are Dylanesque, but Thomas never seems to be copying the Minnesota marvel. Instead, their similarities arise from a common way of viewing the American music canon. The title track opens the disc amidst a flurry of plucked notes and passionate vocals. "Homey, Can I Count On You," on the other hand, is a sunny rag that swings with an irrepressible pop flair. Elsewhere, Thomas delves into gut-wrenching poetics and rousing raves, each with the same charming result. This is one singer-songwriter not to be missed. Catch Thomas this Friday at Radio Bean. (Ethan Covey)
- Seven Days (Burlington, VT)


All it takes to prove that songs about rambling, romance, longing and loss don't need to be revived is someone who can write and play as well as Ian Thomas. Ian, fool that he is, seems to think that with enough humor and talent he can get away with playing honestly.

It's not that he's trying to sound like a sharecropper—he is definitely hanging his own modern hat on the old coat rack— but he doesn't dull the natural power of the form by dressing it up in too much keen appreciation. You shouldn't need refined sensibilities to appreciate these lyrics from his song "I Ain't Lonesome":

"But I ain't calling out anybody's name,/ Nor whining for the trees above to bend./ And I ain't lonesome 'bout any one girl,/ I'm just lonesome 'bout being in this world."

Listen to the song, which you can hear on his first album A Young Man's Blues or at his website. The melody is mournful, beautiful and sung with a sharp resolve that keeps it from self-pity.

Unlike a lot of the musicians from the anti-folk scene that Ian came out of, there's no dolled-up primitivism or preening folk-punk, just a rare combination of musicality and lyricism, intelligence and directness.

- New York Press

"Ian Thomas - Live At Rockwood Music Hall"

I’ve seen Ian Thomas live several times and I don’t say it
lightly when I proclaim that one of those performances was
the most powerful and awe inspiring sets I have ever seen in
my life. That was live and in person however, and it’s hard
to capture something like that on a CD even if it’s a live
recording. This recording from Rockwood Music Hall gives
you a glimpse of what I’m talking about. If you have grown
accustomed to how some of his songs sounded on his first
release “A Young Man’s Blues” then you will be surprised
(perhaps pleasantly, perhaps not) to find him playing some
of those older songs a bit differently. It’s not that they’re not
necessarily as good versions, they’re just different, and not
necessarily better. If you have never heard of Ian Thomas
before then this CD will floor you regardless. Some may
call Thomas’s music a throw back, but that is near sighted
and unjust. He is first off perhaps the best young songwriter
in or out of New York. His guitar playing is so masterful
it comes off sounding like two people playing at the same
time. In fact when I first heard him on CD I was almost
convinced that he double tracked some guitar parts; later
when I saw him live I understood just how good he was.
On this recording he showcases all that and his ability to rip
the reeds off a harmonica; not to mention he can also play a
mean kazoo. Thomas takes the melodies and sensibility of
timeless American folk and blues and brings them barreling
into the 21st century. On songs like “Lonesome Blue Ocean”
and “Halfway Gone” he captures love lost as well as anyone
can. His voice on tracks like “Open Letter To A Lover” and
“Ain’t Gonna Dredge” can send a chill up your spine. There
is something about the delivery of these songs that gives
you the feeling that he is not simply singing them to you so
much as he is revealing some secret gospel. Don’t get me
wrong though, Thomas can also throw down some powerful
stoppers that make you wanna get up, clear the floor and
start a fucking hoe down.

- Urban Folk Issue 6, March/April 2006

"Troubadour of Retro"

PHILADELPHIA -- "You caught me grocery shopping," Ian Thomas says as he walks up to his West Philadelphia apartment in the midday sun with a case of "Black Label" beer in his hands.

After hearing the singer/songwriter's self-released folk revival album "Young Man's Blues," you'd expect to walk into a world of black and white as he begins to open the door to his $550-a-month studio apartment.

There has to be a phonograph in there somewhere.

Sure enough, Thomas' apartment just off the University of Pennsylvania campus is full of telltale signs that a musician and writer who revels in another time lives here. It's a perfect haunt for a young man who's crisscrossed the country, homeless at times, playing his retro brand of folk meets ragtime meets blues meets dixieland.

The sparsely decorated room -- where he's lived for only three weeks -- has one small table with a typewriter on it. On the mantel, a spoken-word record by Dylan Thomas sits. A bookshelf holds a copy of "Moby Dick."

And, yes, he's actually been looking at a late '50s vintage AM/FM radio receiver with a built-in record player for his new pad.

Looking at a picture of the large, boxy radio on the Internet, Thomas says, in between drags on an American Spirits cigarette: "That would be cool. It's like a furniture piece. It wouldn't be practical, but it's probably got that sound, you know?"

It's "that sound" that's so startling when you see Thomas on stage, something Delawareans will have a chance to do Friday night when he plays at Home Grown Cafe in Newark.

Thomas, dressed in a well-worn suit and hat, takes command of a room with just a guitar and a harmonica holder wrapped around his neck, alternately holding a harmonica and a kazoo. He's a one-man band with a songbook of back-to-the-future folk songs that honor the rich past of the music that's influenced him.

"I didn't have a plan," says Thomas, 26, while on a lunch break from his day job as a maintenance worker, where he spends his days framing, painting and tiling. "I just didn't want to stick around. I was boiling over, and I just wanted to get out."

Making stops in Colorado, New Orleans, California, Vermont and Canada along the way, he eventually settled in New York City for three years.

When he first arrived, he lived out of his 1977 Toyota Corolla, which had an ottoman in place of the passenger seat, allowing the lanky, 6-foot Thomas to sleep with his head in the back seat and his feet in the glove compartment.

In 2002, he began playing at clubs in the East Village after a booking agent spotted him playing traditionals in Washington Square Park. He eventually recorded his strong album "Young Man's Blues" and settled into a Washington Heights apartment with friends. When their lease (and his money) ran out, he decided to leave.

After spending a few months working in a kitchen at a retirement home in Vermont, he came to Philadelphia to play some shows and soon made the city his new home.

"I figured I'd give it a go in Philadelphia," says Thomas, dressed in paint-stained jeans, a green button-down shirt and brown cowboy boots with holes in the toes. "I got a job, a place to stay, and I've been wasting time ever since."

It was here in Philadelphia that he went to World Cafe Live for an open-mike night and ran into The Delaware Rag, the Newark-based bluegrass band that he will be opening for Friday night. (The Rag and Thomas have since played several shows together, including the Delaware Music Festival in Dewey Beach earlier this month.)

Pat Maholland, Delaware Rag's bassist, remembers that night well. Maholland and his bandmates were immediately attracted to Thomas' original spin on an old-time sound, something the Rag also specializes in.

"He has such a big sound for one guy," Maholland says. "It's pretty remarkable. He just fills it out."

That sound was born out of listening to blues and folk music beginning when he was 8 years old. He says he fell in love with blues, focusing on artists like Willie Dixon, Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters.

He can't remember how he discovered Chicago blues, but he definitely remembers exploiting the BMG music club, ordering free albums before canceling his account. This sort of prehistoric Napster got him access to blues albums, while he also listened to the folk albums his parents kept at the house, getting to know the works of Gordon Lightfoot, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Richie Havens.

And since his father used to buy and sell tractors, Thomas would go to flea markets with his father every weekend. "My dad would pay me a few bucks for helping out, and I'd spend it all on records," he says.

Thomas' background coming from a small town and traveling to New York with a guitar and harmonica to play folk music in Greenwich Village made comparisons to Dylan commonplace when he was playing at clubs in the Village.

"I get it," he says bluntly of the comparisons. "But it's not that interesting. Everybody knows Bob Dylan. It's an easy one to grab onto."

Instead, fans should should point to Bay-area folk/blues legend Jesse Fuller, the writer of "San Francisco Bay Blues," known as a one-man-band musician, playing guitar, harmonica, kazoo and fotdella (a foot-operated percussion bass he invented.)

It's "that sound" that Thomas revives so well.

Contact Ryan Cormier at 324-2863 or rcormier@delaware online.com. Read his blog at www.delawareonline.com/blogs.


"HALFWAY THERE - Unnoticed on the cusp of greatness"

Folk singer Ian Thomas, this year’s Press Best Of winner for nostalgia-free revival act, is on the cusp of greatness, not that many have bothered to notice. Maybe it’s that he hasn’t bothered—to change his name or practice his stage patter, jive or signify. Or maybe it’s that folk is about the only sound considered more passé these days than anti-folk. Mostly, though, I reckon it’s all the people who cringe when they hear something that sounds old. Which is brutal.

In The Art of the Novel, Kundera has a wonderful riff on the traditions that were lost in the thrall of the new. Where is, say, the Melvillian novel outside of Melville? It all got swept up after Joyce and the motley modernists hit the stage.

Dylan, finally, did the same to folk, which died for no good reason; not because it had exhausted its relevance, or what the music was capable of saying.

Which makes Ian just about sui generis by virtue of his craft and adherence to tradition, without nostalgia. After Harry Smith re-invented the past to suit his own troubled mind, it’s the only way you can play without ending up at best a high-end Ian and Sylvia.

Woody, Hank and Townes are dead. Ian, who started playing blues-based metal before falling into the new thing, is playing it right, and right now, and growing as a songwriter as he absorbs what’s come before. His first masterpiece, I think, is “Halfway Gone”:

But I know some of the deeds I’ve done, the missteps and the

grace un-won

And I know I’m accountable for it all

I wish I had answered when you called.

[You can hear a live recording at nypress.com.]

The last time I saw Ian was on New Year’s Eve, playing for a crowd of amateur-hour drunks. They passed out noise-makers in the middle of his set, which you could pretend were a tribute to his mean kazoo playing, but only if you were in an especially generous mood, which I was not.

I doubt Ian will ever become a legend, nor has he earned the distinction yet; I’m looking forward to hearing him try in the years to come.

Friday, January 27

Rockwood Music Hall, 196 Allen St. (betw. Houston & Stanton Sts.), 212-477-4155; 9, call for ticket information. With Birdie Busch.
- NY Press (Jan 25-31, 2006)

"An American Folk Mosaic"

"Ian, are you there?" I ask, as the sounds of rustling cardboard and sliding furniture crackle through the receiver into my ear. On the other line, singer/songwriter Ian Thomas prepares for an impromptu telephone interview.
"Hold on... sorry, I just don't talk on the phone without my boots," he says, as the volume of his voice settles at an audible level.
'This seems like an odd stipulation,' I think as we begin our conversation. It isn't until we get into Ian's musical beginnings that his need to be shoed becomes completely understandable. For him there is no music without movement. The process is a journey, and the soles of Ian's boots are thin.
Born in Connecticut and raised in Vermont, Ian had an early love of hiking in the forests surrounding his home. His natural gravitation toward music soon became an integral part of his outdoor treks. "Willie Dixon, Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters: those are the big three," he says of his early musical influences. "I really love Chicago blues. I used to go out into the woods when I was a kid... hiking around. I used to carry a harmonica out there, and I'd just wail on it! I love that old music."
As he got older, Ian expanded his horizons by delving into mountain and country music. It wasn't long before he felt the need to go out into the world.
"I started out hitchhiking, and I didn't really know what I was in for. I didn't really expect to find anything; I just wanted to get out and see it. At the time it was a good experience. I saw most of this country for the first time that way: the West Coast, the Midwest, the deserts, the big mountains," he recalls. "What I really learned from that first outing is things can be as simple as you want them to be. The game every day was to find somewhere to sleep, to find food. That was as simple as life has ever been."
These travels, Thomas explains, are what spurred his guitar playing and songwriting. Like his muse, his writing process is an exploration. "It forces you to be honest with yourself and reach out - sort of beyond what you're attuned to. With a lot of songs, it''l be the kind of thing where it's just out of reach before you write it. You figure out where you want to move to, and that's where you write the song. You sort of throw the song out in front of you."
Eventually the song led Ian to New York City, where he lived and played his eclectic blend of blues and folk for over four years. "Completely transformative" are the words he uses to describe the experience. "I don't think I knew what I was in for when I got there," he admits. Hearing about his time spent playing the streets and parks, it seems obvious he's paid his dues to play the blues. This is no weekend warrior.
Hear Ian Thomas' raw, eloquent folk at the Soapbox, January 25th. Don't miss this chance to see a real American troubadour do his thing in the Port City. Check out his music at www.myspace.com/ianthomas and visit www.soapboxlaundrolounge.com for the show time announcement. Remember to wear your walkin' shoes.

John Pollock, Jan 22, 2008 - encore, Wilmington, NC


"Live At Rockwood Music Hall" (2005)
"The Rattlesnake EP" (2004)
"A Young Man's Blues" (2003)



For the last ten years, songster Ian Thomas has been on the road - sometimes in style, sometimes hitchhiking or in an old car, long past its prime. He began playing on the streets between San Francisco and New Orleans, forming brief collaborations with other street performers, then moving on. Drawing on varied influences from the roots of America's canon, his songs are familiar, yet his own. Sometimes described as a one man band, Thomas plays the guitar, harmonica, and kazoo - each with a distinctiveness that drives his flexible performances. After living for a few years in New York City, where he recorded both his first studio album, "A Young Man's Blues", and his latest release, "Live At Rockwood Music Hall", Ian has spent time in various cities, putting on shows and working odd jobs.

Ian Thomas's debut album is a "fast, focused, forward-looking" powerhouse of acoustic blues from one of the most honest and engaging undiscovered singer-songwriters of our time.

After traveling the country for years with a guitar and a knapsack strapped to his back, Ian Thomas gave up the wandering life and settled into New York City, busking for cash and living out of a beaten-up 1977 Toyota Corolla. It is this unusual life story that forms the backdrop of “A Young Man’s Blues”, an album that is as mired in the confusion and paranoia of the modern world as it is rooted in traditional American folk and blues.