A Renewed Focus

Music and Healing

TS Collage

Welcome to the new, improved, and refocused Tomme Suab. I launched this site in October 2013 (after about a year of mental and emotional incubation) with a desire to promote music from the Chippewa Valley, because there is just so many talented songwriters and musicians in this region. Since then, I’ve written about great artists like Adelyn Rose, Savannah Smith, We Are the Willows, and many others. I’ve promoted local events and concerts and advocated for the Confluence Project. I fully intend on continuing this kind of emphasis. However, I have also been experiencing a refining of vision, if you will.

The primary element of that refining process has involved me coming to an understanding of how the emotive aspects of songs are what move me the most about those songs. As I’ve shared my thoughts about various artists and their art, I have gotten consistent feedback from those artists about how I’ve been able to capture the emotional elements of their music. For me, it’s about feeling the artists’ pain and joy.

My focus on the emotionality of music makes sense, in light of my own experience over the last three years. In 2011, I enrolled in “Wounded” at Valleybrook Church, a program that helps participants heal from emotional wounds caused by abuse and/or neglect. The impact of this program on my life has been profound. I feel things deeply now, whereas, for most of my life, I used to numb difficult emotions like sadness and grief. I typically wouldn’t really allow myself to feel joy or happiness. In these last few years, I have learned how to really feel my emotions and allow myself to feel whatever I need to feel. I have learned to really “see” and “hear” people and connect with what they are feeling as well. I could go on and on about the healing and freedom I have experienced because of Wounded. But, that’s another discussion for another context.

So, all this has lead me to a place in which I realize that I really want to connect people with the emotionality of music, especially, but not exclusively, the music of the Chippewa Valley. I believe that there is healing in music, both for the artist and for the listener. There is healing in self-expression; there is healing in listening and connecting to others’ self-expression. I don’t fully understand those dynamics, but I know they are real and they can be life-changing.

Tomme Suab will still promote local events and advocate for the arts. We will still discuss album releases and such. However, we will mostly center on that healing element in music: the emotive quality of a song or album. My hope is that you will connect with this emotive quality and walk away with a new or fuller appreciation of not only this aspect of music, but how it affects you emotionally. I want you to feel what you need to feel, to be more aware of your own emotions, to experience sorely-needed emotional healing.

So, enjoy the site! Use the site to hear about artists you may not know or album releases. But, if you choose to go deeper, I invite you to do so. And, if you have any questions about this renewed focus or emotional healing, please reach out to me at ed@tommesuab.com.


Savannah Smith: Just a Girl and Her Uke

Artist Focus

I happened upon Savannah Smith’s music a few months ago after reading her profile on Volume One‘s website. I was immediately drawn in by her vocal style and the mix of emotive expression I heard. There are themes of romantic connection, the existence of God, how love affects us the same way as a bottle of liquor… The young lady has much to say and I appreciate the way she says it. Smith describes her style as “uketastic” on her Facebook page, which is about the only way I know to describe it as well. Her music does not fit neatly into any category, and she ranges from acoustic pop to country-influenced folk to alt folk.

I was privileged to hear this mix of emotion, themes, and styles live at The Cabin back  in February. Smith played a full set that night, just her and her ukulele. And while she and her uke were the only things producing sounds on that stage, they were enough to fill the room and show a glimpse of the talent that resides inside this artist.

Before I mention more about the actual performance, let me say that I truly enjoyed Smith’s presence on stage. She was unassuming and freely shared her sense of humor and fun stories from the road. She talked about Tom Petty’s influence and how creepy he seems to her. She talked about sleeping in her car while touring and some unknown creatures that she discovered while traveling in Kansas. Again, she was entertaining even when not playing her songs.

Then, there were the songs. She played a mix of original songs and covers. One of the covers was Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark.” With apologies to fans of “The Boss,” I enjoyed her version of the song much more than the original. Her original songs included the recently released single, “Lost As They Come” (more on this song below). If this single is any indication of what we can expect from Smith going forward, I can’t wait to hear more.

I loved what I heard from Smith that night at The Cabin, and it left me wanting to hear more. She has several songs uploaded on Reverbnation and Soundcloud, and I recently took the opportunity to listen. I’m so glad I did. I’m glad that I was able to take a more intimate listen to “Lost As They Come.” What an intense song… The lyrics paint the picture of a discussion between Smith and someone else about the existence of God. It is an intense song, with deep, brooding undertones serving as its foundation both lyrically and musically. I also seriously enjoyed her ditty¬†about the effects of love on an individual, “Love Is Like a Bottle of Gin.” It’s a short tune that tells us that love (or a bottle of gin) can “turn a genius into an ass,” and that, though they are both colorless, they can make us see rainbows. I love the clever lyrics and profoundly true comparisons between those two intoxicating entities. Another great song on her Soundcloud page is “Ventriloquism,” which sounds like a defiant anthem. The combination of her ukulele, some bass, and some harmonica provides a raw country/folk/Americana sound that matches the emotional intensity of her vocals and lyrical content.

The common themes in all of these songs and her live performance at the Cabin are two simple things: her ukulele and her vocals. I am, admittedly, no connoisseur of ukulele performances. However, there is a simplicity in the uke that lends itself well to Smith’s songwriting and vocal style. Regarding her vocals, upon first listen, you may think that you’ve heard other vocalists that sound like her. To an extent, that may be true, but there is a clarity and crispness to her vocals that make her unique, in my opinion. When her vocals and uke come together, there is lovely simplicity and an underlying “cuteness” (for lack of a better word), no matter the intensity of the tune or lyrical content. This simplicity and cuteness draws the listener in quickly and it eases the listener into whatever emotional expression is to come. This dynamic is one of the main reasons to be excited about Savannah Smith’s music.