Tom Shillue is back with “Trust Your Heart,” another “12 in 12” installment, and once again my review will be littered with words like “nostalgic,” “reminiscence,” and “storytelling.” Shillue has been releasing an album a month for the past seven months and I’ve really grown a fondness and appreciation for his style and approach to comedy. Each month is like checking in with an old friend and I find myself eagerly looking forward to hearing what he has to say.
This time around is no different. Once again Shillue presents us with a few tales of his past, this time focusing on his college years. It’s a special time for him, as it is for most people that age, stepping out on one’s own and experiencing new adventures and I was with Shillue every step of the way.
One of the reasons I connect so well with Shillue is he often seems to be telling my own story. We’re the same age, having both grown up in the 70s, so I completely relate as he recalls what it was like living in a time when there was no way to contact a girl who left a note on your door (no cell phones) and the only time the word “gay” came up was when you were talking about the Bee Gees.
Shillue finds himself involved in the theater program at Emerson College and is exposed to a whole new world of fascinating people: Girls who wear the heck out of character shoes and guys who really like Judy Garland. He finds himself pining after an older girl in the drama department (Not for sex, but just because he likes being around her) and the following summer he gets a job at a theme park where he’s introduced to an entirely new cast of characters of whom he speaks of fondly.
I can relate because all of those things happened to me. Trade Emerson in for Ball State and Canobie Lake Park for Busch Gardens and Shillue is telling my story (or at least parts of my story). Of course, my experience wasn’t exactly what Shillue experienced. I was never smart enough to think of running my own pizza delivery business in college and I didn’t befriend a magician who revealed the secret to his dove trick through tragically accidental circumstances. I wasn’t part of a Barbershop Quartet (I ran with knights and gunfighters) and although a few of my theme park friends loved to drink, none of them had cool names like “Squimbo Pie.”
There are three main characters Shillue focuses on: Monica, Nicole, and the magician Tab Halley. Each of them leaves an indelible impression on Shillue and there’s a real sense of heartfelt sentiment as they weave in and out of his life. And then, they all return once again in an epilogue of sorts. It’s a little heartbreaking to find out what happened with each of them (I almost called them “characters,” but these are real people) but Shillue wraps up each of their stories with admiration and grace.
The title of the CD (along with the names of the two tracks contained therein) all join together to echo the mantra of Shillue’s magician friend. It’s a special sentiment that rings true throughout all of the stories found here and perfectly describes the feeling one walks away with after listening. I’m glad I spent this time with Shillue and I think you will, too.