By FERN BRODKIN
For 21st Century Media
Multi-instrumentalist Tom Hampton has established himself as a top-notch, highly in demand sideman and session player in the Philadelphia area and beyond. Acoustic and electric guitar, lap steel, pedal steel, dobro, mandolin and banjo are among the many instruments in his arsenal.
He has performed and/or recorded with many, including local artists Lizanne Knott, JD Malone and John Lilley of The Hooters, as well as nationally renowned songwriters Craig Bickhardt and Don Henry, and bands including Poco and the Marshall Tucker Band.
Hampton has decided to once again take center stage, however. He has not released an album since “Noises from the Basement” in 2006, nor has he headlined many shows, despite encouragement by loyal fans. Finally, after a year-and-a-half working on the project, he is releasing “Friends and Heroes” at Sellersville Theater on April 13.
“Friends and Heroes” is a two-CD set that was inspired after a comment made by Philadelphia’s legendary disc jockey Michael Tearson. The death of Robert Hazard, another of Hampton’s former employers, and a subsequent tribute performance and discussion with Tearson, led to a Hazard-inspired collaboration between the two that resulted in the DJ’s first-ever album, “Stuff That Works” (Juniper Beach, 2011).
At the end of the recording sessions, Hampton said in an e-mail interview that Tearson told him “you could probably do an album of songs written by the people you’ve worked with and still have some left over…”
This remark piqued Hampton’s interest and motivated him to embark on this ambitious project. The result is one CD entitled “Friends,” which is comprised entirely of songs written by artists who he has worked with over the years, and a second CD “Heroes,” which includes songs written by artists who inspired him and shaped him from a creative standpoint.
In addition to previously unreleased songs by Hazard and Dan May, the album also features songs from “friends” the Marshall Tucker Band, Pure Prairie League, Richie Furay (of Buffalo Springfield and Poco) and Tracy Grammer, nestled among songs by some of his “heroes” like Jackson Browne, Lowell George, Terry Reid and Jesse Winchester, among others.
And Tearson was proven correct. Hampton did have material left over after choosing 20 songs for “Friends and Heroes.” So he also released “Preliminary Hearing.” It is a “sneak preview” to “Friends and Heroes;” this album includes five songs from “Friends and Heroes” plus five of the songs that didn’t make it onto that album.
Selecting the material was “probably one of the hardest things about this project,” said Hampton. “I recorded way more than I could’ve possibly used for the record, even with it being a double album. I could’ve put more music on the discs, but there are practical considerations that come into play with regard to what it’s fair to expect someone to pay for this much music, so I drew the line at 20 (songs).” Even with the five additional tracks on “Preliminary Hearing,” “there are still quite a few songs ‘in the can,’” which is musician speak for fully recorded and ready to be released. “It was tough narrowing them down, believe me,” he said.
All the vocals and instrumentation on the recordings is by Hampton, other than a vocal cameo by Tearson, a duet with his daughter Jayda Hampton, and some assistance on drums from Tommy Geddes, who works with him in many projects, and drums on two songs by Fritz Lewak (Jackson Browne band).
Though Hampton is clearly able to perform on almost any instrument, it’s difficult to play them all simultaneously. Thus he has put together a band to accompany him at the Sellersville show. The core band will be comprised of Ross Bellenoit (Amos Lee, Birdie Busch) on “guitars and whatever else I can convince him to play,” says Hampton, while Dan Faga will play bass and Tommy Geddes (JD Malone and the Experts) will play drums.
In addition, Hampton said he will be “joined by several of the folks who wrote some of the songs on the record. That part I’m keeping secret until the night of the show. You’ll just have to show up and find out.”
He said you can expect to hear “quite a few of the songs from the albums at the show, but I may revive a couple of original songs from the old ‘Our Mutual Angels’ (Longview Records, 1997) record, and I definitely have a couple of new ones that I’ll probably play that will be on the next record that’s coming out in September.”
For more information about Tom and to order the CDs, visit his website: www.tomhampton.com. The CDs will also be available for purchase at his shows.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Tom Hampton & Friends
WHEN: Concert is at 7:30 p.m., Sunday, April 13.
WHERE: Sellersville Theater, 24 W. Temple Ave., Sellersville.
TICKETS; $19.50–$29.50; $9.50 for theater members.
INFO.: Call (215) 257-5808 or check www.st94.com.