Tommy Guerrero - "From The Soil To The Soul"

(2010, Too Good)
Track Listing:
  1. Hello Again
  2. The Underdog
  3. Badder Than Bullets
  4. Tomorrow's Goodbye
  5. No Guns More Glory
  6. War No More
  7. Salve
  8. Mission Flats
  9. 1966
  10. Don't Fake It
  11. Just Ain't Me
  12. Create and Destroy
  13. Let Me In Let Me Out
  14. Molotov Telegram

The 14 tracks that comprise From The Soil To The Soul pulse with Tommy’s distinctive organic, atmospheric sound, yet this time with a heavier resonance. Beasties-infused stripped down funk is layered with Americana, heavy psych, lo-fi fuzz and Latin rhythms, all with a breezy, laid-back San Francisco vibe.

Recorded primarily in his home studio Guerrero wrote, arranged and played nearly all the instruments on the album, including bass, guitar, keyboards, percussion and kalimba. Renowned street artist Barry McGee, aka Twist, designed the cover art and Tommy called on label mates/ friends Lyrics Born, Curumin and Bing Ji Ling for guest vocals.

At 40, Guerrero’s résumé reads like a dream: he was a member of the Bones Brigade skate team in the 80’s, made movie appearances, co-founded Real Skateboards and 40’s Clothing, directed art for Krooked Skateboarding and is a prolific recording artist – from the “Fat Jazzy Grooves” and “Another Late Night” compilations, to albums for Mo’Wax, Galaxia, Function 8, Quannum, Rush [Japan]  and now his own venture Too Good.

Cover art by Barry McGee

All Music Guide Review by Marisa Brown:
There’s a smooth West Coast vibe that runs through the entire album, from the Pacific sun-soaked opener, “Hello Again,” to the light traffic and urban noise on “Mission Flats,” to the nearly rocking “Let Me in Let Me Out,” featuring the melodic rapping of Lyrics Born. But From the Soil to the Soul is also darker than anything Guerrero has made before, with heavy basslines that drive the songs along, funky and warm in “War No More” and “Badder Than Bullets” and somber and intense in “Tomorrow’s Goodbye” and “Molotov Telegram,” the latter sounding like it should be used in a Grand Theft Auto-type video game. Guerrero has become quite adept at layering all the various elements in his music without overwhelming it, allowing space — both within the chords and riffs themselves and between them — to contribute to the overall feel of the record as much as the actual instrumentation does. Funk-based guitar lines play over each other while the keyboard chimes in appropriately, “No Guns More Glory” brings in a Hammond B-3, and “Just Ain’t Me,” which has Guerrero himself singing, “Whatever you want from me, I can never give,” over and over, uses a Quantic-style string loop and a lot of cymbal. It’s laid-back yet focused, a satisfying combination that produces a nice sense of continuity within the album, so that even though, by the end, the songs do seem to blend into one another (offset by the occasional vocal track, including a great Brazilian lounge one by Curumin), there’s nothing boring about it at all. Instead it’s a well-composed entity, more complicated — or at least less breezy and sunny — than Guerrero’s other solo work while still retaining his individuality and sound, which makes From the Soil to the Soul a very listenable release, the kind of thing you’d want to have in the background as you hang out with your friends and talk about the best show you ever saw at Bottom of the Hill.

Another prime offering of dusty breaks and laidback guitar lines from San Franciscan Mo’Wax graduates Tommy Guerrero. From The Soil To The Soil features sweetly produced hip hop blues in the shape of ‘The Under Dog’ and Meters-style organ and guitar rhythm tracks like ‘War No More’. There really isn’t anyone out there who sounds quite like Tommy Guerrero. That said, ‘Salve’ would come across like an offcut from DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing were it not for Curumin’s soulful guest vocal. Further vocal contributions come from Bing Ji Ling on ‘Don’t Fake It’ and Lyrics Born, who lays down some fearsome raps on the punked-out ‘Let Me In Let Me Out’.

Tommy Guerrero, a man who gained prominence first as a skater and later as a musician, is a product of this culture, and the freedom and creativity on his album From the Soil to the Soul testify to this fact.

About the Artist:
Once upon a time, the City of San Francisco gave birth to an untamed beast named Tommy Guerrero. From a very young age, the kid could skateboard up walls and down hills like no one else. He played in punkrock bands well before he could even get into the clubs legally. And he displayed an artistry in life that few folks ever even fantasize about.

It’s 2011 and the guy’s resume reads like a dream- Bones Brigade skate team in the 80’s, movie appearances, co-founder of Real Skateboards and 40’s Clothing, art director for Krooked Skateboarding, and prolific recording artist- from the “Fat Jazzy Grooves” and “Another Late Night” compilations, to albums for Mo’Wax, Galaxia, Function 8, Rush [Japan] and Quannum, T.G. has lead a full life. Then there’s the collaborations with Lyrics Born, Jack Johnson, Curumin, Bing Ji Ling and Prefuse 73, remixes for Money Mark/Nigo, Poets of Rhythm and Shawn Lee. His band Jet Black Crayon has toured with Isotope 217 and Tortoise. He’s scored tunes for Thomas Campbell’s surf film “Sprout”, the EA video game “skate” and had the honor of being the sole provider of music for Todd Oldham’s show “Hand Made Modern” on HGTV.  His songs have been licensed for zeitgeist television shows like “Queer as Folk”, “Sex in the City” and “CSI Miami”. His concerts packed houses from the Fujirock Festival in Japan to Café DuNord in S.F. and The Knitting Factory in N.Y.C. His designs are found on Levis in Japan, Vans shoes worldwide, and soon on eyeglasses here in the U.S.

Tommy’s music, like his graphic design, is beguilingly simple. He sounds like a guy messing around on his front stoop, and maybe that’s exactly what he is- but the result will touch you down to your toes. From Mission District punkers to Shibuya-ku hipsters- his melodies dance lightly around your head while the rhythms build under your feet. His is SOUL music, made by a street kid raised on Santana and Bill Withers (with more than a little nod to the Clash and Public Enemy in there, too).