Meet the musician: Tom Caswell
Here’s a guy who’s all about the music. He doesn’t have long, tangled, rockstar hair; he doesn’t add flashy dance moves; and he definitely doesn’t wear skinny, leather trousers. Nope, Tom Caswell keeps his focus on the music.
Blues music, to be precise.
So it makes sense that Caswell be the one to resurrect a monthly Blues Jam. But his path has taken him though a share of the blues.
The original jam started back in 2011 and was run by Dennis Willmont out of what was 51 Main Street in Middlebury. An enthusiastic, guitar-playing Caswell discovered and joined the jam the second day he arrived in the U.S. — April 19, 2017.
“I was welcomed immediately by Dennis,” said Caswell, who grew up playing trumpet in Cotswold, England. But unfortunately, the jam closed up shop a month later.
For Caswell that didn’t mean the end of blues. Oh no. He put together his own band — The Tom Caswell Blues Band — and kept on picking those iconic I, IV, V progressions.
This past March, he played solo at Rough Cut in Middlebury (also located at 51 Main Street) and then with his band. He also started a blues get together (unrelated to the official Blues Jam) in Brandon at Sister Wicked.
“After a few months, Ben Wells and Sara Giard (owners of Rough Cut) gave me the go ahead to bring back the legendary Blues Jam,” said Caswell, who lives with his wife Alexis and their two cats in Leicester. And so the monthly jam started up again this past August.
“I kept it the third Wednesday of the month,” he said. “It’s important to continue the tradition.”
The jams were so popular Rough Cut ditched the mechanical bull it had in favor of a stage and more seating. As for Caswell, he became the music director for the venue.
That is until the BBQ joint pulled the plug on everything last week.
Everything that is, except the Blues Jam. That’s Caswell’s baby and it ain’t goin’ under.
“Rough Cut announced it was closing and that night I found a new home for the jam,” said a bittersweet Caswell.
Hatch 31 on Main Street in Bristol quickly welcomed Caswell and the monthly jam.
“The first Blues Jam at Hatch 31 will be Wednesday, Nov. 21, from 8-10 p.m. — and every third Wednesday after that. It’ll be the same format as in Middlebury,” Caswell explained. “The house band will start; there will be a sign up sheet where musicians who come sign up with their name and instrument, and then we jam.”
“Hatch 31 is smaller and more bar oriented, but has good food,” said Caswell. “And locals in Bristol are really passionate about music. The music scene here is great.”
That’s a shift for Caswell. “The blues back home isn’t big,” he said. “There’s no audience… And there’s no point in having a jam if no one shows up.”
Here, even on a slow night, Caswell estimates that about 10 musicians show up; usually it’s more like 15-20.
“The people who turn up to play the blues know how to play and they know each other,” Caswell said, adding that newcomers are always welcome.
So, yes, the Blues Jam has a new location, but Caswell is working hard to make sure that the monthly tradition carries on as before — offering a fun, relaxed opportunity to focus on the music.