Press Room From time to time, some more astute newspaper and magazine reporters discover Tom's music and are so impressed that they shine some of their light on him. We appreciate it & will post their insights here.

High-caliber talent flies below the radar in Western PA

By Regis Behe

Sunday, March 27, 2005

During a recent interview, lead singer Chris Allen of Rosavelt expressed admiration for the local music scene, noting that his hometown of Cleveland failed to match Pittsburgh's diversity.

While I'm not familiar with the breadth or quality of music in Cleveland, I do agree there is an incredible range of talent in this region. New faces, such as Emily Rodgers, a young singer from Lawrenceville, emerge every week, it seems. Rodgers and her band, Her Majesty's Stars, have the ability to become a regional, if not national, touring act.

For every young musician of promise, however, there are three or four who have quietly been producing music for years. Take Tom Breiding, Tom Duda and Mike Sweeney. They aren't the best-known musicians in Western Pennsylvania, but they are among the most accomplished. All have recently released CDs that deserve to be heard.

Breiding, who lives in McMurray, Washington County, has quietly built an impressive body of work with releases including "American Son" and "Two Tone Chevrolet." His new CD, "Guitar and Pen, Vol. II," finds him going the solo acoustic route, with great success. Breiding is an excellent storyteller, and on "Guitar and Pen" his vocals are reminiscent of John Mellencamp's: simple, direct and affecting.

Duda's "Instrumental Telepathy" is the polar opposite of Breiding's CD. As the title indicates, the songs are instrumentals and range from the cocktail lounge feel of "Blue Moon Serenade" to "Funk 'N Pie," which sounds like it could have been an outtake from a Tower of Power session. The blues-drenched "Charlane's Allure" features some tasty organ and piano courtesy of Chuck Leavell, who's toured with the Allman Brothers and Rolling Stones. Duda, of Latrobe, plays guitar and bass throughout, but he generously shares the spotlight with musicians such as saxophonist Eric DeFade, keyboard player Bill Hubauer and Pete Freeman on pedal steel guitar. When Duda does step forward -- check out his solo on "Rocket Sled" -- he shows himself to be one of the area's better, if somewhat anonymous, guitarists.

Sweeney, who lives on the South Side, is a musician's musician, having worked with Breiding, Shari Richards, Glenn Pavone and numerous others in the area. Two CDs he recorded with a loose aggregation of musicians under the name Hoodoo Drugstore indicate he's an excellent composer of bluesy, barrelhouse rock with strains of country and zydeco woven into the mixes. Sweeney wrote or co-wrote all the songs on "Misfits, Murderers & Madmen" and "Root Doctor" and played bass. He enlisted two fine vocalists, D.C. Fitzgerald and Robert Peckman, for the vocals, and if you didn't know better, you'd think these CDs were recorded in Memphis, Biloxi or some other port of call beneath the Mason-Dixon line.

None of these discs is going to hit the Billboard charts. Sales probably are measured in the hundreds, not thousands. But all are worth a listen. As Duda writes on the CD cover to "Instrumental Telepathy," "The next good thing is often overlooked while waiting for The Next Big Thing."

Top 10 Reasons to Buy Local Music
by Rege Behe, Tribune Review, 10-15-1999
"Soul Kiss" - Tom Duda

Soul Kiss album coverThis just in: Local musician makes smart, intelligent blues album that avoids cliches. Tom Duda's "Soul Kiss" is one of those unexpected surprises that literally comes out of left field - or Latrobe, in this case. Filled with lyrical twists and unexpected insights, Duda's strength is his compositional skills. "Someone Get Me Outta Here" has the feel of a Randy Newman tune and is just as witty. Any band that has ever booked a gig without checking a venue can relate to the lines:

 They got this stripper,
  She weighs 300 pounds.
  Big ugly bouncer going 15 rounds.
  They got these hoods
  Hangin' out at the bar
  They call them faces,
  I call them scars.

Other highlights include the horn-driven "Deliver Me" and the Stones-like "Hi-Heel Blues." And though, in my opinion, Duda's vocals aren't especially strong, that weakness is mitigated by muscular songwriting and some delightful backup vocals by Yolanda Barber and Dannie Vasser, especially on the reggae-tinged "Love's A Four Letter Word."

Out of touch, out of time, out of synch, out of mind
Musical profile - Tom Duda - The Independant - 11-22, 1995
When the leaves change from lush, rich greens to majestic hues of red, orange and yellow, it's time to retire the summer wardrobe and unpack the winter garb. For me, this is a quiet time of reflection, and during my Autumn rites, I don't want to be disturbed.

As my son made a dash for his room, I warned him, "Don't even think of playing that stereo." I returned to the mountain of clothes, sorting them into the "will I ever wear this again and will I ever fit into this again" piles, when I heard music. I walked into Keith's room and he jumped up from his bed saying, "I'll turn it down."

I said, "No, I want you to turn it up. Whose CD is that?" He handed me Tom Duda's "Love Is King." I decided to take a break and "bond" with my son. "Keith, did you know I used to hear this guy's band when I was your age?"

At 14, Duda began playing the guitar, and since he began writing at age 17, he has copyrighted well over 150 songs.

His music is a paradox because there is no common thread or familiar strain between songs. It's not all rock, blues or country; but it is all exceptionally good. The heart of rock and roll still beats because originality and creativity pulsates through the veins of musicians like Duda.
n "Love Is King," various styles of music are composed and combined to bring the listener a CD that touches every emotion.

"Desodorisant" is a beautiful instrumental with a rich, soulful sound. "Lay the Cross on my Shoulder" is a mellow song that anyone who ever had a heartbreak can identify with; yet the upbeat tunes, "Love is King" and "Everything Looks Better in

Your Eyes" bring the hope, anticipation and excitement of new romance.

A rockin' "Big Red" and the soothing "Careless Love" received air time on local radio stations WDVE, WYEP and Magic 97. "Personal Asylum," written in 1980 and included on Love Is King, proves Duda's music can withstand the test of time, appealing to all ages.

More eager to give credit than take it, Duda praises those who contributed their talent and time. Glancing over the album jacket, names familiar to the local rock scene appear: Dave Hanner, Al Snyder, Dave Walters, Chris Feliciani, Shirley Dragovich, and Eddie "The King" Kistler. Art for the Love Is King album cover was done by Sean Cary, a junior at Seton Hill College majoring in art and minoring in music, graphic designs were done by Chuck Trumbetta of CJT Graphic Design and the many sides of Duda were captured in the photography of Earl Brown.

Duda's recordings are done locally at Gamut Productions in Latrobe, where he works with TJ Wilkins and Robin Leachman Baluh. Wilkins and Baluh have worked with over 400 artists in the past 12 years. A visit to their studio is a mind-boggling adventure and education. Recording a song is an intricate process that can take as little time as an hour or longer than 40 hours.

Although a song is conceived by the writer, it begins to take form and move as each performer contributes feelings to his individual part. After changes, edits and mixes are complete, a new song is born.

Recordings can be done live or performed on a computerized keyboard and stored for future use. "I rely mostly on live performances, but would never exclude the use of any technology that could enhance a recording," explained Duda. "I'm not a purist."
Perhaps one reason Duda's music is never stale is because there is so much of himself in his work. He writes, produces, sings and arranges his own music.

"I've written songs in as little as a half-hour," he said. "I don't have to deal with a deadline; therefore an
album is finished when I say it is, or when I have enough songs I like."

His previous recordings include "A View From The Grille" (1985), and "For A Lifetime" (1990).

Jokingly, Duda calls himself "small-town Tommy D" and "hitless wonder." Actually, he is a quiet, sensitive man who shares his feelings and exposes his emotions in his music. His motivation doesn't come from money, power or fame, merely the satisfaction of a piece of good work.

Every picture tells a story; so does a song. "The Living Song" will be on Duda's next album. In it, he pays homage to fellow musician Gregg "Benny" Bendix, a former guitarist/vocalist for the band Gravel who was killed in a 1977 auto accident. The band (which later became Corbin-Hanner Band) performed a benefit for Benny a few weeks later, but Duda was unable to attend, although the loss of his friend weighed heavily on his mind.

"If ever a song was written by inspiration, it was this song," said Duda. "I wrote The Living Song in May of '77, sitting at home while Corbin Hanner Band performed a benefit concert for Benny."

"I never recorded this song because I somehow felt I didn't know him well enough and I didn't want to offend those who knew him better by writing a song about their close friend. But the song is for anyone who has lost someone close - and who hasn't?"