MANHATTAN, NY—How is it that one of America’s greatest songwriters has recorded more than 20 albums and most music fans have never heard of him? Growing up in New Bedford, Massachusetts, Tom Pacheco began learning to play classical and flamenco guitar at age 10. During his college years in the mid-1960s, he relocated to New York and began performing in Greenwich Village clubs. In 1965, at age 19, Tom released his first solo album, a collection of original folk songs. Pacheco’s songs were recorded by John Hall, Jefferson Starship and Richie Havens in the 1970s. Since then, the troubadour relocated to Mount Tremper, near Woodstock, New York, where he attracted interest and recorded with Rick Danko and Levon Helm of The Band. He then pursued music careers in Austin, Texas, on to Nashville, Tennessee, and even Dublin, Ireland, before returning to Woodstock. His most recent album is 2012’s Luminol – The Houston Sessions.
At a rare New York concert appearance at the Texas-themed Hill Country Barbeque Market on Feb. 12, Pacheco demonstrated that his mastery over songwriting has only matured over the decades. Singing with a deep, masculine voice, and accompanying himself only on acoustic guitar, with a guest keyboardist joining him only on a few songs, Pacheco’s performance was so committed to the craft of storytelling that his lyrics were deeply honest and eye-opening, challenging his listeners to deep self-exploration as well.
Pacheco’s songs were so opposite of the commercial trail that they proved riveting. The careful word selection, integrated nuances and dark articulation were contrary to those sought by an audience that simply wants to enjoy a few casual beers and wiggle its designer-jeaned hips. Mass audiences generally do not gravitate to the riveting poetic panoramas in Pacheco’s lyrics. He sang about departing a messy relationship, described the lives of odd and possibly unpleasant people, and noted the moral poverty of the American government’s political system. The messages were hopeful and enlightening. He closed the set with a melancholy song reminiscing the folk rock era in Greenwich Village. Pacheco’s integrity abounded. This was a powerful experience.