I first met Cheryl Tomblin several years ago when I was Christmas shopping at Forest Park’s Kagan & Gaines on Roosevelt Road for a guitar. She was very personable and gave hands-on instruction to my son. Since then, I’ve been following the singer-songwriter’s music career. Last week, she hosted a party at the Friendly Tap for the release of her band’s first CD.
It’s called Allow Me the Pleasure and features Cheryl and her band, Pipes, playing haunting songs of love and loss. Cheryl’s smoky voice is the ideal instrument for expressing the longing in her lyrics. Her influences include Nina Simone (who also sang in the lower register) and the soul-baring ballads of Tori Amos.
Cheryl grew up in Maywood and graduated from Proviso East with a 4.2 GPA but Forest Park is where she hung out during high school and college. At Carnegie-Mellon University, she studied in two disciplines conducive to songwriting: Psychology and Creative Writing.
Following college, she performed at local venues like Molly Malone’s and FitzGerald’s but more often plays clubs like the Elbo Room and Uncommon Ground in the city. She is hoping her CD will lead to more local gigs.
Allow Me the Pleasure was seven years in the making and recorded by bass player, Bill Kavanagh, at Oak Park’s BobDog Studio. Cheryl admits her pickiness slowed the process. She also had to grow as a guitarist and singer to create the sound she was trying to attain. She describes the tracks as hypnotic and melancholy but ultimately uplifting. Her voice may be reminiscent of Tracy Chapman’s but her overall sound is one-of-a-kind.
Cheryl took vocal lessons at Kagan & Gaines and has worked there full time for almost five years. Her employment came about the day she brought in her cello for repair and had a two-hour conversation with the owner. Cheryl had always wanted to work in a musical environment and interact with other musicians. It’s the best job she’s ever had.
She is also surrounded by musicians and artists where she lives. It’s called Switching Stations Lofts in the Garfield Park neighborhood. Her fellow tenants are artists of all stripes: photographers, actors, dancers. She wishes Forest Park had such a musician-friendly building with reasonable rents for aspiring artists.
It was a relief to complete her CD in her 30th year. She has sold most of her copies with the hand-sewn sleeves but has more available at Kagan & Gaines. Though her songs are intensely personal, she believes they have universal themes that connect with listeners.
Her ultimate goal is to gain a wider audience and have her music touch people in other countries. This doesn’t mean she’s looking to become a rock star. Cheryl is too modest for that.
Besides, we would lose a great local resource when it comes to buying a guitar.