Tom Irwin - "If She Will" (audio) (premiere)

by Jonathan Frahm

16 August 2017

Tom Irwin's reflective, plaintive voice makes him an Americana up-and-comer to watch.
 

Telling an earnest story amidst deceptively simple instrumentation, Tom Irwin‘s reflective, plaintive vocals on “If She Will” seals the deal on this melding of old-school country sentiment and new age Americana delivery.

Though it’s one of the first from off of his debut LP, All That Love, Irwin is actually an accomplished player in the sprawling, ever-growing alt-country scene. It shows in the bills he’s shared with the likes of Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams, and Chuck Prophet, to name a few. Better yet, though, Irwin is finally showing his songwriting and performance chops on studio cuts all his own, and the end result has been a strong contender for widespread recognition in the Americana world.
  
Irwin says of “If She Will”:

“‘If She Will’ came from a night in Charleston, Illinois, when I met a young woman named Joni who hopped on stage with our band to sing along on something.  We went outside later to watch Halley’s Comet (it was 1986—next visit is 2062!). Got the phrase from a bracelet she wore, engraved with If She Will, She Will. She was studying at Eastern Illinois University, planning on becoming a teacher. We talked about literature and found a mutual love and respect for American author William Faulkner, among others. I only saw were once more, about two weeks later. Otherwise, I have never seen or heard from her again.

On the production side, I’ve played the song for many years live, but never recorded it with a band. Scott Ligon of NRBQ played a Fender Rhodes piano and John Pirruccello played the pedal steel guitar and also the electric 12-string (they’re Hanson instruments designed and manufactured by John P. for his company Lakland/Hanson guitars). G. Wiz came up with the killer cool tom-tom drum beat during our rehearsals and John Stirratt added the Leif motif riff that pops in and out of the melody. He had heard it in his head and sang it into his phone some weeks before. He asked band guys to just play the riff when they felt it was appropriate. John also invented the lead melodic guitar solo and layered his harmonies and background vocals.

It’s always been one my favorite songs I’ve ever come up with—one of those that wrote itself with no lyric changes or arrangement alterations since the day I wrote after meeting Joni the night before.”

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