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Pittsburgh Artist of the Week: Bill Toms & Hard Rain 'Man’s Soul Is On Trial'

“The sound that Bill Toms and Hard Rain make, I believe is the sound of the American conscience,” says Bill Toms. “Rock ‘n’ Roll, Rhythm & Blues, Soul music. Memphis to Pittsburgh to Chicago and all points in between.”

It’s a bold statement, but you can’t argue its truth. That’s Bill Toms who has been making music in Pittsburgh – and all over this great country – for decades.

“My history starts and ends in the bars and stages of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,” says Toms. “From my first bands – Pendulum and The Shades – to my years with Joe Grushecky and finally with Hard Rain. From the Raspberry Rhinoceros in Shadyside to The Decade to Moondog’s, Excuses, Club Café, and on and on and on.”

Believe me when I say that Bill misses being on a stage just as much as we miss being in front of one. For him, it’s like missing half of himself.

“I’m a very introverted person away from the stage,” he says, “but cross that threshold and watch out!”

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to keep us away from the live music we love, Bill and his band have adjusted and found new ways to make music together while apart. According to Toms, “Because we were recording a lot of our record remotely due to the COVID pandemic, my bass player over in Europe, Simone Messina (who plays with The Bill Toms Band in Italy), was able to record that in Italy in his home studio and send it to our studio. So, that was pretty cool.”

And it sounds great, too. The new single, “Man’s Soul Is On Trial,” came from those remote sessions and the song captures the range of emotions Bill has been feeling along with the rest of us.

“‘Man’s Soul Is On Trial’ came from that somber feeling I got that followed the anger as this pandemic ravaged our community. We saw the good, the bad; we saw compassion, we saw animosity and then we saw the unexpected need to choose a side,” he said. “But, through all of that, the door of goodness is always open and that’s what this song, to me, is about. It’s about hope.”

Joey Spehar is a Pittsburgh native who started as a volunteer D.J. at WYEP, fresh out of college in 2006. He took on any job they’d let him do like editing audio, engineering remote broadcasts, and shoveling snow.