Bare Bones & Barbed Wire (RGF/TPDCD040)
During the late Seventies, locating golden vinyl nuggets was an addictive way of life. Tom Pacheco's two mid-Seventies RCA albums entered my life around this time. Another decade elapsed before I discovered how much more there was to this extraordinary singer/songwriter...
Born in 1946 in Massachusetts, Tom is the oldest of nine children raised by Tony Pacheco, a jazz musician and artist. Tom's chosen medium of musical expression, like his father's, became the guitar: "I had my first lesson from my father at the age of ten, but he never pushed music at me". After graduation from Dean Junior College, the 17 year old Tom took off for New York, specifically Greenwich Village. By day, he attended Hofstra University, by night, he was a regular performer at venues such as The Night Owl, the Cafés Wha and Au Go Go and The Bitter End.
In 1965 he formed a "psychedelic folk/rock" band, The Ragamuffins, who released two obscure singles on the Seville label. In 1969, Euphoria, his next group, made an album for the MGM subsidiary, Heritage: "Four folk singers, two guys and two girls. Sharon Alexander was in that band".
Pacheco and Alexander, who had met at university, went on to work as a duo. Spotted while performing at The Gaslight, they were subsequently signed by CBS label chief, Clive Davis. "We were real broke, maybe had $5 between us. We took a subway to the CBS offices, did seven of my songs, and walked away with a record contract. We had $3 left". 'Pacheco & Alexander', released in 1971, was the duo's only LP, and they subsequently drifted apart. [Three years later, Jefferson Starship included Tom's 'All Fly Away' on their gold 'Dragon Fly' album].
Pacheco first met legendary producer George 'Shadow' Morton in 1966, while busking. After Tom signed to RCA Victor during 1975, Jacob Solman, Tom's manager, suggested that the singer and Morton work together. They cemented an enduring personal and professional relationship on a three day train ride across America. Cut in Los Angeles and respectively entitled 'Swallowed Up In The Great American Heartland' and 'The Outsider', the LPs surfaced at either end of 1976, and are classics. But few at the time agreed: "I did some gigs, and then became so frustrated by the music business that I decided to leave it. I settled in Mount Trumper, ten miles outside Woodstock, eventually assembled a band, and we played roadhouses for years. Songwriters didn't have a prayer of getting signed between '77 and '81".
During the first half of the Eighties, Tom moved to Austin, Texas, returned, albeit briefly, to New York and then resettled in Woodstock, before being tempted to try his luck in Nashville during 1986/87: "They told me they wanted positive uptempo songs. Nothing else". Unsettled, Pacheco's next move was radical, taking him across the Atlantic to Dublin, where he signed with a local independent label, Round Tower. Excluding the pair of discs you are currently holding, since the late 1980s, Tom Pacheco has released seven albums including a duo recording, the last three of which have not been released in the UK - yet. Around two dozen of the songs featured here previously appeared (performed with other musicians) on 'Eagle In The Rain' , 'Sunflowers & Scarecrows' , 'Tales From The Red Lake' , 'Big Storm Comin'' [1993, which was cut in Oslo, Norway, with Steinar Albrigtsen] and finally 'Luck Of Angels' . Using only guitar and voice, these new renditions bring a "stripped down" perspective to the work of one of America's greatest [folk] songwriters. Subsequent to 'Luck Of Angels', Polygram (Norway) also released 'Bluefields' in 1995, and 'Woodstock Winter' (1997, on which he was assisted by various members of The Band, including Levon Helm, Rick Danko and Garth Hudson - this album also became Pacheco's first US release for 20 years). 'Bare Bones & Barbed Wire' was released by Road Goes On Forever Records in 1998, and as a result, in 1998, Pacheco will undertake his first UK and European tours since 1993.
(Adapted from the sleeve note of 'BB&BW' written by Arthur Wood, Editor, Kerrville Kronikle, 1997)