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  • Jonathan Widran

TOM CIURCZAK, I Ain't Ever Growing Up, Volume I

In The Who’s 1965 anthem “My Generation,” a then 21-year-old Roger Daltrey – obviously unaware that he and Pete Townshend would someday be rockin’ well into their 70’s - famously sang “I hope I die before I get old.” Rock and roll tradition always made it clear that aging was something to avoid, or at least fear and despise. But that only counts for the body’s physical aging as the world keeps turning, not the ageless musical souls living, breathing and dreaming inside of those who dedicate their journeys to music. Those souls never truly die and collectively keep us, as Bob Dylan once wrote and Rod Stewart sang so emphatically, “Forever Young.”

One of these young rockers, Tom Ciurczak, grew up with these rock and roll dreams, developing his songwriting and performing chops in bands in the Mid-Hudson Valley area of New York while listening to and feeling the inspiration The Who, Springsteen, Peter Gabriel, Led Zeppelin, Genesis, The Beatles and Warren Zevon, among others. Though he never stopped writing tunes based on everyday experiences, life circumstances led him to set aside those ambitions in his 20’s.

Tom found great success as an innovator in the lighting business, building three thriving companies, but never lost his desire to tap back into those dreams and draw on the wisdom of decades more life experience to become a renowned recording artist in his own right. Following his well received, critically acclaimed debut album Call Me Ishmael – which scored airplay on 250+ radio stations throughout the U.S. and Europe – the singer/songwriter makes a bold, defiant and visionary statement with the release of I Ain’t Ever Growing Up, Volume I, a slate of eight exciting and diverse originals that are all at once contemporary and of the moment yet steeped in his desire to give listeners the vibe of the classic rock he grew up with.

Tom sees the collection as a reflection of rock and roll’s “Peter Pan syndrome,” which he eloquently reminds us has been manifested by everyone from Springsteen (who used “Wendy” as his co-conspirator in “Born to Run”) and the late Meat Loaf, whose Jim Steinman penned Bat Out of Hell II featured a song called “Lost Boys and Golden Girls,” who will “never be as young as we are right now/Runnin’ Away and runnin’ for home.” While making a statement about the reality that we are never too old to pursue our dreams and achieve outside the box goals, he’s also paying homage to all the great bands he loved when he was young. Many of the songs on Volume I (and he promises on the upcoming Volume II, which you’ll no doubt be hankering for after hearing these tunes) reflect on the mistakes we all make as young people finding our way in the world. Intriguingly and perhaps strategically, he is saving the title track – which embraces the spirit of the ageless rockers rockin’ into their late 70s and 80s – for the second volume.

It's important to note that Tom’s emergence as a true rock and roll recording artist began manifesting in 2014, when he attended Steve Earle’s Songwriters Master Class and Retreat. Connecting with kindred spirits, he began turbo-charging his songs, taking them to a new level while setting his sights on greater things. Testament to his evolution as an artist is the crew of top-flight musicians he has assembled on Volume. I – including drummer Kenny Aronoff (John Fogerty, John Mellencamp), acoustic guitarist Angela Petrilli, bassist Travis Carlton (Larry Carlton, Robben Ford) and percussionist Richie Gajate Garcia (Phil Collins). Tom himself plays acoustic guitar on four tunes.

Tom begins with journey with the jangling, slow building, ultimately propulsive bluesy rocker “Ontario Nights,” whose soulful vocal harmonies, fascinating narrative and poetic images of hard blowing winds and bursting into flames quickly brings Springsteen to mind. Fiery. percussive and raucous from the get-go, the singer digs deep to share his guttural grittiness on “All Night Long,” another spirited Springsteen-y romp about the simple desire to slow dance with a woman.

One of the great joys of Volume I is Tom’s ability to engage rock and roll subgenres to take us on adventures to unique places – including Tanzania on the quirkily exotic “Kilimanjaro,” an intoxicating tune partly inspired by Peter Gabriel’s world music explorations. Listeners may need to have Wikipedia handy to fully appreciate colorful references like “Chaga tribe” and “Bula Matari” and to understand that his reference to “that place where elephants go to die” as a real-life incident driven by the ivory trade. Travels like this are artfully balanced by a sojourns deep into the American Heartland (a la Mellencamp) like the edgy, supercharged “The Vault,” a whimsical, nostalgic look back at youthful debauchery and a “blood brothers” type friendship – all kissed with Matt Lomeo’s wild harmonica solo.

Despite differences in their overall style, all of Tom’s rock heroes had in common the genius of great storytelling, and the singer likewise proves himself a master at creating compelling narratives. On Volume I, he saves the best for last on “Bonnie & Clyde,” a wild, hard driving, crime and romance filled soap opera full of thrill seeking, wrong choices, implied violence, crimes, magic carpet rides and manhunts by the cops and FBI. Though it’s implied that his involvement with “Caril Ann” got him killed, he starts by saying that somewhere down by “Dead Man’s Curve,” he saw a rattlesnake in the middle of the road” that reminded him of her.

While that song is surely the most epic of the bunch, Tom’s storytelling bravura is also at a fever pitch on the rollicking “Action Out There,” a sports metaphor infused tale where he encourages a friend to get out of his/her comfort zone, be courageous and let loose rather than hang out with a bunch of couch potatoes content just watching Monday Night Football. His gift for using metaphors (this time using “fire”) to illustrate larger philosophical truths also shines through on the mid-tempo “Nights On Fire.” This tune is intriguing in that we never really know whether the fire is all good or bad: “The fire purifies the souls/Of any witches in the town/So every full moon you go out/And burn another down. . .The “Nights on fire/See how it goes/And who survives.” The most heartfelt tune on the album is the souful, sensual mid-tempo acoustic ballad “Right Or Wrong Choice,” in which he passionately shares his tough love wisdom with a female friend who is caught in a despairing circle of wrong choices and their consequences.

There’s a lot of wonderful classic rock and roll magic to unpack on I Ain’t Ever Growing Up, Volume I, an album destined to keep listeners feeling younger and younger as they wait eagerly for Volume II to drop.

Check out Tom's Bandcamp Page (which includes an option to purchase) here:


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