Nice. . .And With Heart

Echo's from the Heart
Tom Flood (ear X-tacy Records)

By Tim Roberts

Louisville singer-songwriter Tom Flood is said to disappear and resurface a lot. And when he comes back, he always brings something new with him. This time he's taken a long journey within and brought back a lengthy recording of relaxing instrumentals full of sonic depth and passion. It's Echo's from the Heart. And make no mistake: the sound will blanket you moments after you press the play button on your CD player, and you will be powerless to stop what follows.

Unlike the generic department-store "relaxing moments" CDs - usually displayed on endcaps close to the candle aisles (just down from hardware and cleaning supplies) - that contain the sounds of waterfalls, flowing brooks, raccoons chittering, and narcolepsy-inducing soft music, the tracks on Flood's Echo's have a variety of rhythms, melodies, and instrumentation. Sure, they are all soft and low-key, but when the musicians backing him consist of half of Splatch, a noted jazz educator, and several of Louisville's studio musicians, the results are sweet.

Echo's opens with "Cool Runnings," introduced by Greg Acker on dijeridu and Raphael Starr's flute runs before Flood enters with the theme on acoustic guitar. It also features a smoldering flugelhorn solo from John La Barbera. The entire track will spread itself lushly through your speakers. It's the lure for the rest of the recording.

Among the pieces that follow are the title track, with Flood's tender solo guitar, light enough that you can hear sighs in the strings, and the snappy "New Beginnings," which starts with John Cantrell and Raphael Starr lightly taking the melody lines and solos on piano and clarinet, respectively. Halfway through, the song moves into a Latin groove fortified by Cantrell on Hammond organ, then gradually returns to the style in which it started. It's the several surprises like that one that keep Echo's from dissolving into mere background music.

Echo's also contains "Guitanjo," a lengthy piece divided into three movements, blending a Celtic melody in one, a samba rhythm in the next, and a fandango in another. It's a cross-cultural stew that marks a climax in the recording. Another notable track, "Rainmon," begins with a dark, freeform piano solo from Cantrell before it segues into Flood's guitar. The darkness is never entirely lost, but neither is the gentle tone of the entire work.

Tom Flood has come back to us with a gift, and a karmic message. The heart can listen to everything you say to yourself and others. It will all come back to you. Whether it was spoken harshly or gently, even with conviction, it still comes back as an echo.

And that echo's from the heart.