Tommy Womack likes to preach, but he doesn’t always know what he’s talking about. He frequently tells tales, complains, blathers, and contradicts himself without acknowledging his motormouth. That’s part of his charm. He’s the guy next door you run into at the bar at 3:00 pm who denies he’s a regular as he cadges a free drink in exchange for a story. Of course, he’s the hero (or anti-hero) of the tale whose entertainment value is well worth the price of a beer.
Womack knows he’s self-centered and proudly announces this in the aptly named “It’s All About Me”. He’s a cult hero who has received his share of adulation and disregard from critics and the public over the years and sings about it. He’s dying now, maybe. He’s battled cancer three times and won (so far) and survived a terrible car wreck that shattered his pelvis and several ribs. He made this album with one eye on his legacy and the other one just rolling around in his head.
The baker’s dozen tracks on I Thought I Was Fine share little in common outside the narrator. The cuts vary in style and substance, ranging from silly to serious as well as soft to loud. Womack declares he wants to be called a “rocker”, so he did not invite any skilled players to contribute to the album. In his calculation, that would make this an Americana album. It’s mostly just Womack on vocals, guitar, and bass with producer Jonathan Bright on drums. Womack covers Frankie Laine’s lazy-assed “That Lucky Old Sun” and Cole Porter’s cosmopolitan complaint “Miss Otis Regrets” with the electric guitar in front as if they were classic rock ‘n’ roll songs.
He tells “The Story of Waymond and Lou” (Waymond is his older brother) as an unaccompanied vocal with the focus on Elvis Presley, and then follows it with an acoustic tribute to the couple. Another cut jauntily laments the perils of “Job Hunting While Depressed”, “Call Me Gary” dramatically presents the impact of a pedophile priest that lasts for decades, and “A Little Bit of Sex, Part 2” rocks the pleasures of being free from one’s libido. The rest of the tracks are just as noteworthy and varied in their content.
Womack’s not much of a singer, nor does he try to be. He stays in tune (mostly) and tells his tales more than sings them. That’s a positive as it allows the listener to hear all the words clearly. On edifying tracks like “You Don’t Get Over Love” and “Pay It Forward”, Womack offers moral lessons on how to live. He may not be especially profound, but he tells simple truths in an entertaining fashion. Because of the first-person nature of the songs, it seems as if he’s singing to convince himself about the meaning of life or that life has a meaning. The album serves as proof.
But as the title track suggests, he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. Womack reminds us of the importance of getting a good buzz knowing it can’t last, being with friends and lovers, delighting in music, and enjoying life while we are here because we don’t know what the future will bring. Carpe Diem? Not exactly, but the record serves as a satisfying reminder to be in the moment.