Back to Archives

Tommy Dean

Don’t call it freak

Email Article Print Article Share on Facebook Share on Reddit Share on StumbleUpon

In the swelter of Independence Day, I’m collected by a rusted pickup driven by Tommy Dean’s father. From there, I’m taken to Dean’s trailer, the sound of firecrackers like white noise in the distance. I’m taken aback by how perfect these modest accommodations fit Dean’s aesthetic: in his world of folksy picking and strumming, life is made of trains and carnivals and dusty roads. His mother offers me a glass of fresh-pressed apple juice. I’m about ready to bust.

“Baby Gramps gave me this,” says Dean, referring to the trailer we sit and smoke in. As I meet with him, he’s just returning from a tour with said throat-singing folk veteran.

Despite how naturally Dean fills the role of the busking troubadour, he’s only been playing and listening to folk in earnest for three years. Before that, he was a punk rocker. As surprising as this initially seems, he and I reflect on the similarities of punk and folk, then we agree that his next move should be hip-hop. “Historians and honorary scholars and noble thinkers have traced back hip-hop to talking blues,” says Dean. “It’s just rhyme [set] to a good melody.” 

These genres emphasize storytelling and performance, something Dean values as well.

Many will know Dean from the Victory Music Open Mic at the Antique Sandwich Company. Though he’s only 20, he’s earned the respect of the long-time folkies that frequent the popular Tuesday open mic. His style is paradoxically unique in the way it upholds the classic themes of the genre. Onstage, he performs the same as he does on the street with his guitar case open, awaiting the money of passersby. It’s the kind of conversational and wordily sung folk that more or less died in the late sixties.

See Tommy Dean bring his tales of lazy dogs and rail-riding tramps to The Den Tuesday, July 14 when he plays with Drakkar Sauna and Todd Davies.

[The Den@urbanXchange, Tuesday, July 14, 7 p.m., all ages, $5, 1934 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, 253.572.2280]

comments powered by Disqus