Tom Pacheco,
There Was a Time
(Appleseed, 2002)

This album is a change of pace for Tom Pacheco. In his liner notes for There Was a Time, his 12th solo album, Pacheco discusses his views concerning nostalgia. He doesn't believe in reminiscing about supposed better days; he looks to "what's next, not what's been." But 2001 was tumultuously different for him, as it was for many people. His mother died, his father took ill, he lost three friends on Sept. 11 and five other friends in untimely deaths. This collection of songs reflects the past year and offer "glimmerings of hope and spiritual resurrection in all of them."

Pacheco's music is America condensed to a very simple yet elegant form. His songs employ a simple tune and he tells each story about an aspect of America with the music serving as the background, not the foreground. His lyrics are beautifully crafted, allowing the tales to be easily comprehensible while remaining poetic. The song that does this the most is the 9/11 tribute "Heroes," which will probably get the most attention. In "Heroes," Pacheco praises the everyday normal people who find courage to do the unbelievable, from the firemen to the policemen to the passengers of Flight 93.

It's the simultaneity of Pacheco's message that makes this album remarkable. His songs offer glimpses of hope while also criticizing America for its downward spiral. The album's title track has a very melancholic tone recalling former glories of this country, such as safe schools, secure jobs and an overall feeling of safety. "What About Us" has a near-desperate tone and reflects the frustrations of many in the shadow of the stock market collapse and the corporate scandals. Another tune, "What We Left Behind," takes a different approach. The tune has a jovial front-porch stompin' pace while the lyrics offer suggested cures for what ails us. In these songs, Pacheco's not merely complaining about this country's problems; he's reminding us of America's former glories and how attainable they are.

Just to ensure that we listeners aren't discouraged by his critiques, the final track is an inspiring tune titled "You Will Never Be Afraid Again." The structure of this song, from its pace to the background vocals, is almost parental, as if the audience were composed of frightened children. (Aren't we all, sometimes?) The rhyme scheme occurs at every half stanza and full stanza, similar to children's rhymes. It's as if Pacheco has unloaded all these feelings and frustrations upon us throughout the album yet doesn't want us to leave with our heads hanging. Trust me -- you won't.

There Was a Time is a lot like life -- it's not easy but it's worth it. This is not an album to slip in and listen to at any time. In order to appreciate it, there's got to be emotional involvement or the experience is wasted. Again, it's like life -- I don't think Pacheco would want us to merely coast by; he wants us to grasp it tightly and take every moment we can.

- Rambles
written by C. Nathan Coyle
published 4 January 2003

Buy it from