Tales From PA 6 (with Bret Alexander) (2018)

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 01 – I Ain’t Gonna Grow Old In This Place Anymore (Flannery)
02 – Amantha Ray (Flannery)
03 – Rolling On (Flannery)
04 – Morning Eyes (Flannery)
05 – The Death of Joe Strummer (Flannery/Alexander)
06 – As Good a Choice as Anyone (Alexander)
07 – Stephen Foster’s Ghost (Flannery)
08 – Twilight In the Shadowlands (Flannery/Alexander)
09 – County Line (Flannery)
10 – Shelby Cobra (Flannery)
11 – A Greater Generation (Flannery/Alexander)


copyright 2018 all rights reserved
recorded at Saturation Acres in Dupont, PA
produced by Bret Alexander

Tom Flannery – guitar, vocals
Bret Alexander – guitar, vocals, mandolin, piano, harmonica

“Their songwriting chops are touched by the gods on this 11 song set. I don’t think any other duo does it better right now”
— 88.5 WRKC radio
“‘Twilight In The Shadowlands’ is a haunting track….Alexander transfers this
listener from the streets of north Belfast Ireland to
the rugged and haunting mountains of Northeast Pennsylvania…..
With its embattled stories of love, life and death ‘Tales From PA 6’
matches the intensity and standard of what the two men
have done before. We can only hope that this isn’t the last collaboration
between these 2 American gems”

— Seán Ó Sirideán

Belfast Poet, author of ‘The Ramblings of a Bessbrook Boy”

“Tom Flannery and Bret Alexander do it again. Two different voices, but one soul. And that soul shines within these new songs as it did on their 2016 release ‘Dupont Back Porches’.

Their latest release Tales from Route 6 is sharp, focused, and poignant. It’s filled with tales of America. Tales of all of us caught in the middle trying to make the best of thing…keeping our chin up…moving forward. Their style is in the vein of Springsteen, LaMontagne, and Drake. It’s Americana, it’s gritty, and it’s real. Alexander breathes into his harp and it wails in a Nebraska style. Many of these songs could easily fit nicely between “Mansion on the Hill” and “Used Cars”.

..even in the most melancholy or heartbroken lyrics there’s a sense of hope…Flannery and Alexander are two truly gifted individuals. Not sure if there’s anyone better locally to tell our stories.”

–Keith Perks – 1120 Studios / AntiHero Magazine

“Tom Flannery’s songwriting has always been distinctive for its defiant exuberance in the face of loss. In his latest, Tales from PA 6, with Bret Alexander, he takes it step further, claiming the mantle as coal country’s answer to James McMurtry. From the stunning, nuanced opening lines of “I Ain’t Gonna Grow Old in This Place Anymore,” into the evocative picaresque, “Stephen Foster’s Ghost,” all the way through the rocker “Shelby Cobra”, Flannery and Alexander catch the soul of a region – and a country – making damned sure if it’s bound for hell, it’s gonna squeeze every drop out of life before it goes.”

Seamus McGraw – Author of ‘The End of Country: Dispatches from the Frack Zone’, ‘Betting The Farm On A Drought: Stories From The Front Line Of Climate Change’, and ‘A Thirsty Land The Making of an American Water Crisis’

“…Universal and articulate; powerful ruminations on life, family, love and death.  An exception album of rock-driven acoustic story-telling…. the songs from Tales from PA 6  are thoughtful, mature and empathetic stories that have a familiarity that rings true no matter what road you are on.”

–Vinyl Voyage Radio

“Throughout its stirring 11 tracks, ‘Tales From PA 6’ takes you on an imaginative and highly descriptive creative journey. With each number, singer/songwriters Tom Flannery and Bret Alexander take you inside the lives of people that we’ve all seem to have known or encountered, and its done with a thoughtful sense of poignancy. It’s folk music at its best from two of the region’s finest songsmiths.”

—Alan K. Stout, music journalist and radio host, 105 The River



My favorite line from Tales Of PA 6 is this: “Resistance is futile saith the Lord/Especially when you’re 50 and bored”.

You have to be 50(or close to it) to feel that line. If you are half a century old AND a musician you feel it quite a bit more. The ghost of that line keeps showing up time and time again throughout the record. In character after character and in every story.

Tom and I discussed this record for the first time at a bar. We didn’t talk much about marketing it or doing shows to support it. We just talked about Pennsylvania. Love it or hate it, Northeastern PA is a unique place. It’s the kind of place that deserves a song or two written about it.

I wanted to do a collection of tunes about the people and places along Rt 6. I have spent a lot of time on that highway, and I thought there were treasure troves of stories on the side of that road. Tom had half the lyrics written before I decided whether I really liked the idea or not. That’s the way it is with him. We are a good combination, no doubt.

When I was in middle school my favorite short story was “A Piece Of Steak” by Jack London. It was a tale about an old prize fighter trying to win a match against a young man. The one fought for his family and the rent, the other for glory. Experience lost, youth won.

Years later, my favorite movie was “Cinderella Man”. A similar story but with a happy ending.

I don’t know what it is about fighters that I love so much. And if they know they are fighting a losing battle, I’m totally smitten. Resistance is futile, indeed.

As Rocky famously put it “It’s not about hitting hard. It’s about getting hit.”

That’s what I get out of these tunes. Everybody is out there, still in the game. Maybe they win, maybe they are still waiting to win. Sure, things didn’t go according to plan. That was years ago. But, like The Winter Warlock, they still have a couple magic beans….. and goddammit it’s time to use them. Probably they are fighting a losing battle, they know that. But there they are anyway.

Any 50 year old can relate to that.

— Bret Alexander


So we were sitting in this bar….

It was last summer. Bret and I decided to meet over drinks and discuss working together again. So we found a joint halfway between his place and mine, and started in on the whiskey and lager.

Our first effort was a record called “Dupont Back Porches” which we released in 2016. We met and wrote and recorded it in a sort of creative blur, skipping the parts where you’re supposed to rehearse, and going right to the parts where you hit the “record” button and hope you remember the bridge that you just finished writing 30 second ago. Somehow we pulled it off, and became good friends in the process. Music does that.

When we get together to talk new music we usually spend a few hours talking about everything else first. Our kids (we both have 2 daughters, around the same ages), our shared love of Levon Helm, the books on our respective nightstands, the current state of our nation. There’s no fixed starting point, and no roadmap. It’s a whirlpool of laughing and head shaking and sometimes astonishment that we’ve managed to make it this far without committing a felony. We kept the bartender busy, needless to say.

But back to the music. We discussed writing and recording an entire record in a single day. Neither one of us thinks the idea is insane….which should tell you all you need to know about who you’re dealing with. Anyway, someday we’re gonna do that. But we were looking for something else on this night.

Bret had this idea of getting in his car and following route 6 and the river, writing songs about what he encountered along the way. He also started to get really technical and talked about building an app for your phone that would pinpoint your location on route 6 and cue up the appropriate track…..like having a tour guide in the passenger seat who played guitar. I loved the concept but my non-technical eyes glazed over at the thought of downloading something from the app store…..and right around this moment somebody came into the bar and played The Beatles “Revolution 9” from the White Album on the jukebox.

I cannot convey to you just how weird of a moment this was.

You know the tune, right? Eight minutes of some guy chanting “number 9 number 9” over noises that sound like a barnyard being strafed by fighter jets. It’s how you spend your time when Yoko takes over, and the drugs run out of ideas. Why in the world anybody would play this song on a public jukebox is best left to deeper thinkers than I.

Bret and I both kind of looked at each other. Initially I thought maybe a herd of cats were fighting in the street, but no, it really was Revolution 9 on the jukebox. The volume was, it should be noted, at a level akin to a Motorhead concert.

A guy teetering on the edge of sobriety walked over to the (digital) jukebox. He assumed there was a record inside and that it was skipping. He was beating on it like the Fonz in a frenzy…to no avail. “Number 9 Number 9 Number 9….” continued unabated. He couldn’t take it anymore. Things were getting surreal.

We suddenly had the bar very much to ourselves. Everybody in the place had disappeared like they were raptured. The faces on potential patrons walking in was one of horror. What is that screeching sound? What kind of place was this?

And then, it was finally over. I think the next song was some vintage Chuck Berry, so at least the culprit had a wicked sense of humor. The bar re-filled and everybody pretended that what just happened didn’t really happen. And me and Bret emptied our glasses and silently decided that we’d do a sort-of concept album about a mythic road trip filled with rogues and tramps and saints and sinners and gamblers and thieves, all searching for redemption and little slices of dignity, and all not worrying about the sins of Saturday night until Sunday morning rolls in. We’d write songs about guys who might play “Revolution 9” on a jukebox in an Old Forge bar, in other words.

And then I went home that night and wrote the lyrics to “Twilight In the Shadowlands” and soon after Bret had the tune and we were off and running. We encountered Stephen Foster and Sid Vicious and Joe Strummer in our travels, discovered a man paralyzed by blind faith, waiting for his Amantha Ray. Men and women were scattering in all directions, running both towards and away from each other, numbed by religion or pills or booze or one-night-stands. Or just plain old 9-5 alienation. Three and four minute movies is what I discovered we were making. And we were pooling our voices together….showing solidarity with each other and the folks we were writing and singing about.

And just when we felt bereft of happy endings, kids the age of our own daughters stood up and said “no more”. Those long moments of silence from Emma Gonzalez at the March for Our Lives in DC were the first cracks under the feet of the casually cruel white men who stopped caring about us and the people we write about a long time ago.

The times seem to be a-changin. A greater generation indeed…..and so that seemed a good place to stop until the next time.

In a bit…