Thom Chacon sings in a melodic voice that is as soothing as it is distressing. His poignant lyrics lay somewhere between the despair of Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath (1939) and Woody Guthrie’s dust bowl laments, to Springsteen’s Ghost of Tom Joad (1995). The songs pay homage to the downtrodden, hardscrabble often overlooked people of a depression era America that still exists today.
There is sadness in his lyrics, stories about hopelessness, yet dreams of a better life. The words are haunting, and hover like a Shakespearean apparition long after the music stops.
Chacon’s delivery on acoustic guitar and harmonica is reminiscent of Bob Dylan’s earlier cutting edge poetry, and he readily acknowledges the influence of that legendary musician. He admits too, that the voices and lyrics of Tom Waitts, John Prine, and Willie Nelson have also had an impact. The comparisons end there however, because Chacon is a unique talent, every bit as memorable as those fabled performers.
Chacon spent his early years in Chula Vista and Sacramento, California. He arrived in Durango, Colorado in 2006, which he wholeheartedly adopted, met his wife Bess there, and has been a fly fishing guide for Duranglers outfitters almost since the day he set foot on the shores of the Animas river. Listening to his reason for migrating to the southwest, tells much about the slight-framed, bearded, singer-songwriter.
His first taste of performing publicly came in his hometown of Sacramento in 1992. From that time forward, Chacon knew it would be a major part of his life and ultimately found himself in Los Angeles and the music business and all that it entails; the pace, the promises, the disappointments, the use or be used attitude, and all its disingenuous trappings. Eventually he burned out and became disillusioned enough to seek a place where he could reinvent himself and decided fly fishing in the mountains of Colorado was just the place to do it. Not long after he started the less frenetic life, his producer tracked him down and urged him to get back to song writing and singing. Truth be told, he never stopped. “I always write, but I liked not having to worry if it was good or would sell.”
In addition to possessing a style reminiscent of the previously mentioned entertainers, one of Chacon’s personal favorites is writer-singer-songwriter-actor Kris Kristofferson, yet with all that rich material to draw upon none has been more influential than his own family history.
His second cousin, Bobby Chacon was two-time boxing world featherweight champion; the pugilist’s story gave title to Thom’s first album, “Featherweight Fighter,” which was recorded along with Dylan’s bassist Tony Garnier and drummer George Receli. The music on that album speaks of hope and recovery, of glory and fortitude. About the relationship with his cousin, the singer has said, “Bobby taught me no matter how hard it gets, you’ve go to get up off the mat and keeping fighting.”
The ex-champion’s life in and out of the ring is as much a saga of win-lose-draw as it gets.
Legend has it too, that Thom Chacon’s grandfather was a deputy sheriff in Silver City, New Mexico and joined a posse sent to capture Billy the Kid!
Then there is the influence of his siblings; he is the only boy in a family of five girls! Growing up the second youngest, Chacon says his sisters taught him to be sensitive and, “How to pay attention to the details.”
On tour during the past year with the Los Lonely Boys, Chacon recently performed in Durango at Fort Lewis College Concert Hall and continues to tour with them as the opening act. He has also toured internationally, opening for artists such as Jason Mraz, doing shows in Thailand and with rock-star legend Lucky Ali in India. None of his gigs however, have had more power then his 2004 concert at Folsom Prison, made famous by Johnny Cash. Chacon is one of only three musicians to have been granted permission to entertain the inmates. “It was a life-changing experience for me,” he says.
His new album, simply titled “Thom Chacon,” is available in both traditional vinyl (his preference) and CD. The music retains the storylines he is becoming famous for and bare titles such as, “Juarez, Mexico” and “Big River,” on which he is accompanied by his wife Bess. There are others whose titles are a clear indication of their narratives; “Innocent Man,” “American Dream,” “Ain’t Gonna Take Us Alive,” and “Chasing the Pain;” all 12 tracks evoke imagery of frailties, as well as a strong spirit.
Thom Chacon is a sympathetic voice of reason from whom we can learn much about life’s hard knocks and how to get up off the mat.