Tom Ovans - Get On Board

>"a pessimistic prophet whose music is mostly stark, whose lyrics are fragmentary and poetic… the rough-hewn ballads carry a bleak beauty"
Paul Du Noyer The Word

From the industrial side of east Austin, recorded at a primitive analogue studio which shares a warehouse space with a concrete fabrication shop, comes Tom Ovans 12th album Get On Board (FW 036).

‘It's hard to find an edgy studio anymore’ says Ovans, yet the Sweat Box, owned and operated by Mike Vasquez for 16 years, fitted the bill. Walking around work benches, power tools, cement mixers and cables to get to the studio, Tom recorded the album live in 2 days with Larry Chaney (electric guitar) and Vicente Rodriguez (drums) returning from the Party Girl (2007) sessions.

They were joined by newcomer Phil Ajjarapu on bass. Additional sessions were used to record vocals by Lou Ann Bardash, a horn part by DD Dagger and Mike Vasquez, and a piano part by Jesse Hester.

The album closes with ‘Too Late Now’, one of the longest and most ambitious songs that Tom has ever recorded, a story that begins and ends at a fenced-in basketball court down in Greenwich Village on the corner of West 4th and 6th Ave known as ‘The Cage’.


Itinerant songman Tom Ovans has long been an outsider, a restless traveler on the spin. Born just outside of Boston, Massachusetts in 1953, he’s lived a life on the margins. If music has been his one constant, still he has always faced what had to be faced, done what had to be done – whether that be carpentry, painting or roofing, working in construction, factories or warehouses. Prissy, overwrought singer-songwriters everywhere, today as always, can talk the big talk, but craftsmen think with their hearts and work with their hands.

As a chronicler and troubadour, Ovans has trod a rough and ragged musical path across the States. In the early ’70s in New York City he walked the walk with a junked-out Tim Hardin and knocked-out loaded Phil Ochs. Over the years he has drifted, been homeless, stood proud, lain low, dug deep but always moved on. Following stints on the east coast, west coast, a short spell in New Orleans and 18 long years in Nashville, Tom Ovans landed in Austin, Texas, six years ago with his painter wife Lou Ann Bardash. Together, they continue to live on the edge, away from the spotlight, fame or glare. He only rarely gigs or tours.

A self-taught musician, Ovans released his first album, ‘Industrial Days’, in 1991. Attracting increasingly widespread respect and acclaim, an impressive series of raw and gritty, moving and inspired albums followed. ‘Dead South’ in 1997 was his first masterpiece, 1999’s ‘The Beat Trade’ was even better. ‘Tombstone Boys, Graveyard Girls’ in 2003 probably topped the lot. For Ovans, integrity counts over success. He don’t wave no flags for no-one, doesn’t preach to the choir, and never chooses easy, Sprawled across two CDs, and drawing hard on a long life lived in the shadow of the American Dream, 2005’s ‘Honest Abe and the Assassins’ is a fiercely personal and doggedly independent work. Tough and honest, bruised and bleeding, it reaches in and reaches out, hits hard and lingers long. It is Tom Ovans’ tenth album, and his best to date.