Tommy Womack is a tough one to pin down stylistically, but with his third album, his free-ranging nature has taken on a shape of its own. It’s as if he’s been building himself a ramshackle mansion and the floor plan is now becoming familiar, albeit uniquely conceived.
Circus Town has echoes of the Kinks throughout it (and not just from one period either; there’s shades of Kinda Kinks, Muswell Hillbillies and Misfits), but it’s so deeply buried in his musical core that his own identity has grown from it. There’s resilient pop that’s catchy but never cloying (“Everything With You”), country balladry (“We Can’t Do This Anymore”), and seriously revved chuggers (“My Name Is Mud”, “The Highway’s Coming”).
At eight-and-a-half minutes long, “The Replacements” is a stunning song. Telling of one man’s love for this unpredictably volatile but ultimately transcendent band, Womack captures what everyone who cared about them knows, and with a vantage point that’s at once singular and universal. That he does so without trying to sound like a Replacements song adds to its power.
The album’s only misstep is the unlisted, but unfortunately not excluded, “bonus” track. It’s a minor song made worse by being both scatological and topical. Coming at the close of a winning dozen, it’s maddeningly out of step.
On the plus side, Womack dedicated the album to Abraham Lincoln. A rock ‘n’ roll first? Maybe, but somehow perfectly in character with his outlook as a singer and songwriter.