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Tom Jans
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Tom Jans
A&M SP-3644

Chet Flippo
Rolling Stone
7th November 1974

Circles of non-Nashville songwriters forming briefly in Music City have been responsible for much of the best that Nashville has produced in the last decade - starting with the Willie Nelson/Waylon Jennings/Tompall Glaser cartel, and proceeding through Kristofferson's era up to Guy Clark/David Allan Coe/Billy Joe Shaver. Such interlocking rings have changed the face of country music, contributing subtle influences of other kinds of music and ideas, developing - but working within - the country format.

The new adaptability of C&W as a result of these nuances has made possible the newest circle, revolving around Mentor Williams, and including such talented young writers and singers as Troy Seals, Don Goodman, Will Jennings, Donnie Fritts, Dobie Gray and Tom Jans.

Jans, a Phi Beta Kappa at the University of California, wrote "Loving Arms" for Dobie Gray, proving that there is a place in the country music of the future for an educated person. Jans's compositions are being recorded by everyone from Elvis Presley to Olivia Newton-John.

And with good reason. His first album (he previously recorded with Mimi Fariņa but the album gave little indication of his talent) is the most impressive by a Nashville writer/singer since David Allan Coe's entry.

Jans won't knock you over with his voice. It's a slight, pleasant enough voice somewhere between Tom Rush and Dave Loggins, somewhere between dry and sweet. Perhaps the album works so well because Jans is acutely aware of his limits, both lyrically and vocally, and never strays beyond them. He will go to the edge with lines like "Said my dreams were strong and shining/Never said they'd blind you like the sun" and then he carefully backs away, resisting excess. That same caution is reflected in some of Lonnie Mack's finest guitar work in years. Musical understatement (the mastery of the role that silent spaces play) has seldom been as effective.

Additionally, there's some skillful writing here. "Green River" and "Tender Memory" will probably get most of the attention but "Margarita" also warrants a listen.

Country music, following its recent and rapid transitions, now has three identifiable audiences: those who wear real hardhats and authentic Stetsons, those with toy cowboy hats and imaginary hardhats and bareheaded folks. This last group is the one that Jans is aiming at, broadening the country music audience (and his own) while he broadens the music itself.


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photo credit:
tom sheehan London 20th May 1977

This page updated October 2001 by Geoff
GMGough@clara.net