HEATHER ANNE LOMAX
Photos of Heather Anne Lomax by: Shots By Morrison
THE DOMAN TRACKS RELEASING ON 11.03.23
PRE-SAVE/PRE-ADD THE DOMAN TRACKS HERE
It’s not what you take when you’re living
It’s what you leave behind when you go
— “Bits and Pieces”
Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Heather Lomax’s The Doman Tracks, a moving, often intensely personal collection of original songs recorded with the late Michael Doman, formerly the singer-songwriter-producer of the noted ‘80s L.A. rock band Broken Homes, will be issued by Blackbird Recording Label on CD and digitally on Nov. 3.
Lomax and Doman cut the intimate material during two years of recording sessions. The recordings were set aside, but Lomax returned to them after Doman’s untimely death from a brain ailment in December of 2020.
“I really wanted to honor him and the beauty that he had and the gift that he brought to the world,” Lomax says. “I remember sitting with him and saying, ‘Mike, you cannot wait forever to release this music. Don’t wait until after you’re dead for your stuff to come out.’ But Mike was his own worst enemy.
“I said, ‘I’m putting this out in Mike’s honor. He bugged me for years to do it, and I’m gonna do it in his honor.’ So I called Jason Hiller, who engineered the sessions. He had mountains of material that we had done over the two years, because Mike liked to re-do things — ‘Let’s try it this way.’ I sat with Jason and listened to hours of recordings. I picked the eight tracks that I thought were the most poignant or affecting.”
Lomax first encountered Doman at a showcase mounted by a producer who was seeking talent to work with. She recalls, “I remember seeing Michael with his curly hair and this red sparkly satin shirt that looked like something out of Tom Jones’ closet and these black leather pants. And I asked, ‘Who is this knockoff of Bob Dylan?’ And the producer said, ‘Oh, it’s Michael Doman. You’re gonna love him.’ And of course I did — I thought he was fantastic and very quirky. I thought, wow, what an odd, interesting and talented character.”
She adds, “At the time, I wasn’t aware of Broken Homes. I was just aware of what he was doing solo. I went over to guitarist Jeff Sebens’ house once, and he started playing some Broken Homes records, and I said, ‘Who’s this?’ And he said, ‘It’s Mike!’ I said, ‘What?’ Because I had never heard of Broken Homes, nor did Mike talk about them. At the time, he didn’t really want to bring up his past.”
When Lomax first encountered him, Doman was working solo at such L.A. singer-songwriter venues as the Hotel Cafe, Kulak’s Woodshed, and Room 5. He was also embarking on a short tour with the remaining members of The Doors. But in the mid- and late ’80s, he had served as the front man and principal songwriter for Broken Homes, a local quartet widely viewed in those days as “the Band Most Likely to Succeed.” The group recorded three hard-rocking, Stones-inflected collections for MCA Records, but their work failed to gain traction amid the local hair-metal boom, and the group dissolved in the early ‘90s. (In a coincidence of timing, all three of Broken Homes’ long-out-of-print albums finally appeared on streaming services earlier this year.)
While Doman and Lomax both decided against working with the producer, she says, “Mike said, ‘I really love your music, but you need to work on your performance,’ and he said, ‘I would be happy to sponsor you to make a record if your performance was up to snuff.’ I looked at that as a challenge.”
A year-long period of woodshedding ensued. Lomax plotted a show for Doman with her then-current band the Ozark Mountain Thrush, but the musicians’ car broke down on the way back from Arizona, and she hastily rehearsed a two-hour solo performance for him.
“He heard me,” she says, “and he said, ‘You know, I didn’t think you would do it — I didn’t think you would actually come to the plate and be ready to go.”
The two musicians set about working on a brace of Lomax’s original songs, with Lomax taking lead vocals, Doman singing duet and background vocals, and Lomax, Doman, and Sebens playing guitar. The sessions, all cut live, also featured support from other local players, with engineer Hiller’s bass parts added later.
With the exacting Doman producing and doing the majority of the arranging, the recording sessions stretched for two years.
“He was very creative, very giving, and very complimentary,” Lomax says. “But he also demanded excellence. We would go for an entire day where we would do just one song and do things over and over. He was very much a perfectionist. He had a temper that I saw sometimes. But it wasn’t all some grueling task. And Mike and I were aligned in our vision and our aesthetic, and what we liked — things that weren’t overly polished, that were raw, where you could still feel the warmth of the music coming through. Jason Hiller had that same aesthetic, too.”
The resultant sessions produced music that was stripped-down and intensely felt. Lomax says that “Mama’s Sleepin’” is “a cathartic fuck-you to my adoptive dad, who was abusive verbally, and physically sometimes.” “The Joni Mitchell Song” stems from a dream in which, she says, the great singer-songwriter “was sitting across from me in a rocking chair in a driveway, and I was going through the ramifications of the divorce from my ex-husband, and all of the nightmare that was involved in court situations. In the dream, I heard her sing two verses from the song, and I woke up with them revolving in my head over and over.” The song “Heavy Load” appeared in a different, explicitly countrified version as the title track on an album Lomax released under her previous adopted name Michael-Ann.
The Doman Tracks begins and ends with versions of the Eric Nelson-penned song “Bits and Pieces” — the first is a full-blown duet with Doman, while the second performance features cello accompaniment by Michelle Packman.
Lomax attempted to establish a deadline for the completion of the music, to no avail, and the tracks sat in engineer Hiller’s hands, in her words, “forever and a day.”
“I wrote Mike an e-mail that said, ‘Listen, this has to be brought to a close,’” she says. “We had all the basic tracks and everything — it was just down to mixing and mastering. Jason had the masters, and Mike was involved in doing his own thing. What I think ended up happening is that he thought, well, she’s saying this but she’s crying wolf, and I’m just gonna let it ride. I think I completely shocked him when I wrote back after months and months and said, ‘OK, I wish you the best.’”
Lomax says that even Doman’s closest friends were unaware of how seriously ill he was before his death. In the wake of his stunning passing, she resolved to get the music they made together released. The Doman Tracks is that memorial.
“His death hit me like a ton of bricks, because he was such a huge part of my life and my existence in Los Angeles,” she remembers. “I was very distraught, very moved, and I wanted to respect the friendship-albeit tumultuous at times- that we had over the years. Regardless of whatever issues we had in the past, we were very, very close. There was definitely a “soul recognition” between us. We knew each other very well: the bad and the good, the yin and the yang. Like most of us, he was a sinner and a saint, you know.”