MEET THE BAND: Tommy Womack (vocals, guitar)
A MAN WITH A MEMOIR (OR TWO): Born in Sturgis, Kentucky, singer-songwriter Tommy Womack played with the band Government Cheese from 1985 to 1992. (His first memoir, Cheese Chronicles, covers those years.) After a good run with that group, he joined the Bis-quits and then issued his first solo album in 1998. Last year, he issued his latest solo effort, Namaste, and he's currently at work on a second memoir, which he says will arrive before another studio release of original tunes.
HE'S A SURVIVOR: In 2015, as he drove through "the boondocks of Kentucky" to a concert in Grand Rapids, he came to what he thought was a four-way stop. It wasn't. A semi-truck plowed into the passenger side of his car, spinning him around and shattering the windshield. Glass was everywhere. The crash broke Womack's pelvis in four places.
A NEW LEASE ON LIFE: When he finally left the hospital to go home in a wheelchair, his friends were ready, willing and able to help take care of him. One built a wheelchair ramp at the back of the house. Others started bringing food and visiting. A couple of friends put up a GoFundMe page to help raise some money to cover medical expenses and supplement his income. Some of his favorite alt-country acts — Dan Baird and the Georgia Satellites, Jason and the Scorchers, Webb Wilder and the Beatnecks and Will Kimbrough — played a benefit concert on his behalf. He documents parts of the experience on Namaste. "It has had a profound impact on gigs where I drive myself," he says when asked about his accident. "I definitely look both ways before entering an intersection. I thought after that car wreck that I wouldn't get on the road with any group for anything. So many people came together and were so supportive of me and my wife and son that it had the effect that I felt like I have to do keep doing it, because there are so many people who care."
WHY YOU SHOULD HEAR HIM: Like all the albums in Womack's catalog, Namaste features a bit of everything. The album opens with tender, twangy ballad "Angel," a song that finds Womack singing in an upper register as he croons "angel, you got me on my knees/I got problems." Womack even adopts a Tom Petty-like sneer for the mid-tempo "The End of the Line." In the piano-driven "Darling, Let Your Free Bird Fly," he references rock's various tragedies. For his show at Wilbert's, he says he'll play the stuff that works well in an acoustic format. "I'll be playing the stuff that comes across well as a solo acoustic act," he says. "There are some songs that don't work that way at all. In the electric band show, there are some songs that work well acoustically but don't work well with a band. I'll do my best to keep my eyes open when I play and sing. I will do my best to be alert, sober and ready to entertain."
WHERE YOU CAN HEAR HIM: tommywomack.com
WHERE YOU CAN SEE HIM: Tommy Womack performs at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 6, at Wilbert's.