THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “I wanted to rock this time,” says the multi-talented musician, literary artist and local hero Tommy Womack, making love to an early morning cup of coffee at Bongo Java in East Nashville. “They’ve called me an Americana artist for over 20 years now, and it’s a great important genre; I’ve got nothing against it. I’ve had a great time being part of the movement. But one day a while back, I had an epiphany. I thought, hey, I hate dobros! … And if I hear another song about a train in the key of G, somebody’s gonna get hurt.”
“I Thought I Was Fine has more in common with The Replacements than Car Wheels On A Gravel Road,” Womack continues as the caffeine begins to kick in. “It’s up-tempo, and sometimes totally in your face. Look, I’m 58 years old. I nearly died in a car accident on the way to a gig in 2015. I’ve beaten back cancer three times since 2017. I’ve seen musician friends of mind die before they hit my age, so I want to go back to my first love, rock ’n’ roll, while I still have time.”
The album was co-produced by Womack and Jonathan Bright (Raelyn Nelson Band), who took their time in Bright’s home studio, with sessions going back to 2019. “A consequence of all the chemo I’ve been through is that I get tired easily,” Womack explains, “so we recorded the record in bits and bobs three hours at a time. That’s one thing about the record: Nobody sounds like they’re tired when they’re playing. And we did like The Beatles and would do a whole song in three hours from top to bottom.
“Jonathan played the drums, and I played all the guitars and bass. I didn’t want all my fancy-playing slick session-musician friends this time. I wanted ME. I wanted slashing guitars and rough edges. When we recorded a guitar part, we didn’t say, ‘Hey, maybe we should adjust the microphone, maybe we should change this and that to get a better sound.’ No, we would listen to the playback and say, ‘Does it sound like a guitar? It does? Good! Let’s move on!’ ”
Womack enjoys a tremendous affection in Nashville, as well as in some of the rest of the world, for his (often intensely personal) songs that are sometimes funny and sometimes sad; he’s also been known to raise laughter and tears within the same song. From 1985-1992, he played in the legendary post-punk college radio darlings Government Cheese. Next came The Bis-Quits (1992-94) with Will Kimbrough and Mike “Grimey” Grimes, who did a critically acclaimed record for John Prine’s Oh Boy! label in 1993. Then Womack’s first book Cheese Chronicles arrived. Chronicling the story of his first band, it’s a cult classic among both musicians and fans. It was followed by a slew of solo albums (eight so far) starting in ’98. Womack now also plays in Daddy, a part-time band that includes Kimbrough. Meanwhile, alongside all the record-making, two more books were published.
Before the disc’s release, Womack says, “It feels like Christmas when I was eight … that delicious impatient anticipation. I mean, there’s more to look forward to this time. I mean, I even have a record deal for this one, and a publicist! — I’ve paid my dues, I’ve paid OTHER people’s dues, I think! Hell, this record might have a chance! Whether I do or not, though, what’s it matter? I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing. That’s a thing about the music business. They can’t kill you, you have to voluntarily die. And I ain’t dead yet.”