New Local Release: Bill Toms and Hard Rain | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

New Local Release: Bill Toms and Hard Rain


Bill Toms and Hard Rain
Good for My Soul

The grit in Bill Toms’ voice gives his songs a great deal of authority. Before he even gets to the opening line of “Back to Memphis,” he lets fly with a gravelly “wellll,” that makes you stand up and take notice. Behind him, the members of Hard Rain have already returned to that Tennessee city, banging out a groove that pays tribute to classics heard on Stax Records.

For his ninth studio album, Good for My Soul, Toms combines his blue-collar rock roots with a horn-driven blend of R&B, gospel and blues. Album opener “I’d Be a Rich Man Today” recalls the prime days of Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, with its bright horn shouts behind the vocals. 

But Toms virtually starts a spiritual revival in the album’s second half, with the rousing “I’m Sad No More,” setting the scene thanks to Steve Binsberger’s sanctified organ introduction. In between, tracks like “Nothing Like My Baby” and “Your Love Is Good for My Soul” — with Binsberger offering a rich piano groove this time — go straight for the soul feeling. 

All lines meet in the closing “Desperate Times,” a rallying call for anyone facing personal hardship, delivered with the weight of a hymn. It might be secular, but it can generate an “Amen” anyway.