As an artist, Tom Hampton has traveled full circle in his creative pursuits - beginning as a drummer, taking up guitar to explore the craft of songwriting, then finding a niche as a session player and sideman...and now, finding a fresh, new sense of enthusiasm for writing and recording his own material. Tom's music could fall easily into any one of several categories - AAA, Alt-Country, Folk, Acoustic, Singer/Songwriter - yet doesn't belong wholly to any one of them. His music pays its respects to its past without becoming immersed in it.
The native Tennessean's debut album, Our Mutual Angels, was first released in 1997 on Longview records, a Philadelphia independent imprint. The album gained strong, if spotty, support among his peers and select media outlets (garnering rave reviews among several national media outlets, including a top twelve pick in Performing Songwriter magazine).
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His accomplishments as a musician, singer, and songwriter earned him the esteem of the Philadelphia music community as evidenced by the incredible array of nationally respected musicians appearing on the album. Ronny Crawford (Lisa Loeb/Jeffrey Gaines), Barrie Maguire (Natalie Merchant, Wallflowers), Andy King (The Hooters), John Avarese (Grey Eye Glances), Steve Achenbach (Ben Arnold), and Garry Lee (June Rich) all contributed significant performances.
The title of the album - "Our Mutual Angels" - comes from a take on D.H. Lawrences' theory that for every being on earth, there is an angel - split apart at birth - to be reunited when the magical pairing occurs. According to Tom, "The songs on the record chronicle the search for contentment... relationships in various states of growth or deterioration." The resulting music is an amalgam of Toms' strong rural foundation tempered with visual lyrics that chronicle his - and our - experiences in life.
As a performer, Tom has shared the stage with Poco, John Gorka, Pure Prairie League, Lucy Kaplansky, The Nields, Chris Whitley, Jill Sobule, Lynn Miles, Richard Buckner, Kris McKay, Iain Matthews, and Eddie From Ohio. He has performed at major acoustic venues including The Blue Bird Café in Nashville, Club Passim in Boston, The Fast Folk Café in New York City, The Tin Angel in Philadelphia, The Point in Bryn Mawr, The Living Room in New York City, Godfrey Daniels in Bethlehem PA, and The North By Northeast Music Conference in Toronto.
He toured behind the record incessantly, and switched management shortly after the record's release to try and "give the record legs...or at least a fighting chance," he recalls. However, he soon found that the record created more of a buzz for his skills as a musician (Tom plays a multitude of instruments, including guitar, lap steel, dobro, mandolin and others) and session player than for his craftsmanship as a writer. As a result, he spent the next few years playing on records by a multitude of artists and appearing in support of friends like Charlie Degenhart, Marty Higgins, Blake Allen, Aunt Pat, Bet Williams, Polar Creep, and others. He ultimately found himself enjoying the lower-pressure environment of honing his instrumental craft in support of others. "And the really great thing about it," he says, "is that I got to do things that I never really got to do when I was out front. I got to show off my chops on different instruments, indulge myself as a harmony vocalist, and stretch out a bit. I never really got to do that when I was the focus - so I really enjoyed it. Still do."
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The time spent in the studio and on the road with other artists eventually inspired Hampton to release some of the backlog of songs in his archive - demos, outtakes, live versions and covers of some of his favorite songs - as the first volume of a series of releases he's titled Noises From The Basement. It was released in February of 2006 as a precursor to two new album projects - the first of which will be an album of Poco songs recorded and released as a benefit to raise money for original drummer George Grantham's medical expenses. The second, tentatively titled Time Well Spent, will be his first full length album of original songs since Our Mutual Angels. It's expected to be available in the fall.
Tom's new enthusiasm for writing, recording, and performing is evident in his live shows - which, he says, are sporadic out of necessity. "There are so many people competing for so few dates and venues," he says, "that I try to be selective. If I learned anything from the time spent touring behind the first record, it's that you really have to choose your battles and maximize the impact of every show. I'm a lot more focused on what my expectations are now than I was. I know what I want, and I'm a lot more thankful for what I get."
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