I recently had the opportunity to see Tom Feldmann perform again (since he has been touring I have only seen him perform once during the past year). This time however, he was part of a new duo with Abraham Piper. They are calling themselves G. Ningroy. I asked Tom why that name and he said something to the effect that it sounded good.
Tom is a promising young interpreter of delta country blues who I first heard and saw perform several years ago when he was just starting out. Playing either an acoustic or national steel guitar, Tom presented a refreshing retro approach to the blues. Eschewing the six string Stratocaster pyrotechnics of other young blues performers, Tom went back to the roots of country blues.
Tom's first two CDs, Lay It On You (© 1999 produced by Billy Franze) and the outstanding Drunk Man's Dream (© 2001 Maple Island Records), were some good examples of a budding young talent who was not only keeping the spirit of country blues alive but also attempting to bring some new ideas to this music. The Lay It On You CD took its title from an old Gary Davis song that is included on the CD. The remaining tracks on this CD included a mix of originals by Tom and songs by John Hurt, Woody Guthrie, Kevin Farrell and even a Lennon, McCartney song.
Tom's second CD, Drunk Man's Dream, was more in the vein of the singer/songwriter with all original tracks except for one Son House song. The songs on this CD were classic story telling songs about lost love, coming home, religion, death and life. Tom's vocals evoke the road weary sound of an itinerant bluesman and are both eerie and appealing. Below is an excerpt from a review by John Taylor we ran last year on Blues On Stage:
"Tom Feldmann's second outing, "Drunk Man's Dream," adheres to time-honored
traditions… And while he may be following in the footsteps of giants -- in addition to Mr. House, the names Lightnin' Hopkins, Bukka White, and Mississippi John Hurt come readily to mind -- he's definitely no pale imitator. Tom's doing things on his terms here, telling his own stories."
"Instrumentally, Tom proves himself an adept and agile finger-picker…he's clearly done his homework, and knows how to craft suitable soundscapes that lend a musical urgency to his narratives. And his voice, shot through with a slight quaver that suggests fragility, nonetheless retains an underlying strength, the kind that suggests a surprising and indomitable resilience. Tom's blessed, too, with just the right touch of ragged to lend an unquestionable authenticity to every phrase."
Tom's new partner, Abraham Piper, is another local Twin Cities musician whose musical influences are more country, folk, rock and roots music. Abraham's vocals have a definite Lou Reed-Tom Waits-Bob Dylan quality that captures the rebellious spirit and sound of those singers. I think Abraham said he was first introduced to blues music by Tom. They first met at a local bar where Tom heard Abraham singing the Dolly Parton song, "I Will Always Love You." Tom was so impressed with Abraham's singing that he asked Abraham to join him on tour. Tom said, "he's been a good addition and a lot of fun." That joint tour led to the formation of this current duo going by the name of G. Ningroy.
And that's where I first saw them (at a recent 400 Bar show). The duo G. Ningroy's music begins with that country folk-blues base but is somehow transformed into a hybrid sound that can be more closely described as alternative country or folk-rock. Both Tom and Abraham took turns on lead vocals as well as some duets. Abraham played the acoustic and electric guitars and Tom switched between his acoustic, electric, National Steel and banjo. Their sound and music is refreshingly out of the ordinary. As a duo they are still rough around the edges but in reality that rawness makes their music that much more appealing.
I asked a few question via email and below is a selection from some of those questions and answers.
Ray: When and where were you born and raised?
Tom Feldmann: Born 5/25/78 in western suburb of Minneapolis on the nice red couch in our apartment. Grew up in Minnetonka.
Abraham Piper: Born 12/12/79 in S. Minneapolis. Raised there as well.
Ray: What type of music did you listen to while growing up?
Tom Feldmann: Beatles
Abraham Piper: Country and Dylan
Ray: When and how were you exposed to the blues?
Tom Feldmann: Around the age of 17 from a John Lee Hooker album
Abraham Piper: From Tom Feldmann
Ray: Who are some of you blues guitar influences?
Tom Feldmann: John Lee Hooker, Lightnin' Hopkins, John Hurt, Bukka White. Basically anyone in the country blues genre.
Abraham Piper: Tom Waits, Robbie Robertson
Ray: Tell me about you slide guitar playing?
Tom Feldmann: It's fun. I like the sound, don't have a real technical answer for you, I first heard George Harrison playing it and liked the sound and when I heard Muddy Waters I thought it would be fun to learn and it just stuck from there.
Ray: Tell me about your solo tours, type of music you play and where you have played and your recordings?
Tom Feldmann: Started touring about 2 years ago and just went out around the US, played in all the continental states and a few Canadian Provinces. Never wanted to be just a local musician so I recorded my first album and hit the road. Played mostly blues and folk until I met Abraham a year ago and now we tour as alternative country. I like to tour, home gets old so we spend most of our time on the road, playing shows. First album "Lay It On You" was just done basically to use as a booking tool, Billy Franze helped me out with that and it got me started touring. Drunk Man's Dream is basically just stories and I didn't do the blues things on that so it's very different from the first but I enjoy it more. Drunk Man's Dream was recorded in an auditorium in northern Minnesota and put out by Maple Island Records so it worked out well.
Abraham Piper: Have played locally for about 2 yrs and have two solo recordings, "Halfway to the Lowland" and "Happy-Go-Cursed."
Ray: How did you two decide to team up as a duo?
Tom Feldmann: You've got to hear Abraham sing "I Will Always Love You" and the fact that we put out a CD "Prelude to a Fistfight" sort of helped push us that way.
Ray: Describe the type of music you are playing together now.
Tom Feldmann: We call it alternative country. That's the closest thing that it comes to in two words. We have similar song writing styles, writing mostly stories about the gritty side of life. I write stories about whores and death and he writes about prison and detox. I stuck to the acoustic blues thing and Abraham was doing folk/punk so our current style is the outcome of the two.
Ray: What recordings do the two of you have together, and are you planning more?
Tom Feldmann: We put out one a few months ago called "Prelude to a Fistfight" basically to sell on our tours, we hadn't gotten the duo thing together but wanted to have a recording of the two of us. There will be a live G. Ningroy album out soon called "Live Last Night" recorded at the Bryant Lake Bowl, which is the duo. Will get another out this summer. Would like to do about 2 a year.
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