The Unforgettable Tom Keith: Sound Effects Man

December 2nd, 2013 by Frank Randall · No Comments · Uncategorized

With the second anniversary of Tom Keith’s unexpected passing retreating all too quietly as winter approaches, I’m reminded there’s one CD in our home that keeps both my eight year old son and my sixty-nine year old mother-in-law in stitches, consistently, and on any given listen. And by “in stitches” I mean unbridled laughter – the kind that makes you tap a headphoned individual on the shoulder and ask “What’s that you’re listening to?” It’s a lovingly curated collection of highlights from public radio’s A Prairie Home Companion called, simply, Tom Keith: Sound Effects Man.

A quick review of the contents suggests a delightful hour of APHC skits culled from the extensive archives: Tom busting out of the gate on track one, valiantly chasing Garrison Keillor’s evocative audio fantasy around the Gunflint Trail. The confounding Maurice, maître d’ of the Cafe Boeuf, exacting his revenge on the very same Mr. Keillor, the universal martyr of restaurant patrons everywhere. The kilt-wearing tenor celebrating St. Andrew’s Day. Every piece is charming, nuanced, and downright funny.

But the signature that Tom Keith leaves on each of these performances, and on his body of work in general, is that every sound he created wasn’t just a sound that filled a specific cue in a script that called for an audio effect. The sounds he created – no matter how fleeting or seemingly trivial to the comedic ensemble in question – had, surprisingly, a personality of its own. The noises he made had heart. They revealed character where character would not normally be found. This was his magic. The distressed caribou. The relentless water-drip. The underachieving automobile. The sober Swede. The deadly lutefisk. The carnivorous snow-bat. The bad loon. His work was delightful, and may be revisited at will and with great pleasure thanks to this terrific collection.

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