By Roy Kasten
By Kris Wernowsky
By Chaz Kangas
By Joseph Hess
By Julie Seabaugh
By Mike Appelstein
By Rachel Brodsky
By Kelsey McClure
In the early part of the last decade, Tommy Halloran led the laid-back swing combo the Ambiguous They, a group that fused the somewhat disparate sensibilities of Irving Berlin, Tom Waits and the Squirrel Nut Zippers. That the band never made much of a mark was always a shame, but Halloran spent the ensuing years hosting open mic nights and playing around town, singing in a cheerfully raspy tone and strumming jazzy guitar chords.
Along the way Halloran has made some friends in the local blues, jazz and singer-songwriter scenes, and many of those pals pop up on his lovely Moan & Shout. Members of the Soulard Blues Band, the Funky Butt Brass Band and the Bottoms Up Blues Gang sit in and give an appropriately breezy feel to Halloran's low-slung ditties. Pianist Matt Murdick is a sideman extraordinaire, able to hang back with broad, open chords or drive the rhythm with a New Orleans shuffle, as on the album-closing "Easiest Thing in the World."
Halloran's songs have the timeless sway of pre-World War II jazz, with a special nod to the jazz guitar maestro Django Reinhardt and the gypsy swing from the first few Andrew Bird records. The mood is so sweet-and-low, so eternally easygoing that you'd be forgiven for swatting imaginary mosquitoes with an equally imaginary straw hat when this disc is playing. This is gin-tippling music, pure and simple. Even when Halloran gets lachrymose, as on the lover's lament "In the Cool of the Pines," he still manages to turn heartbreak into a sing-along. But he's better at soft-touch jazz and easy swing tempos, and luckily, Moan & Shout is full of such songs. As summer beckons, Halloran and company offer a fitting soundtrack for lazy, humid afternoons.
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