An artful musicality and an assuring optimism light up Lucky To Be Me, Tom Culver's new CD. With a burnished voice and impeccable phrasing, he reinvents songs from a roster of brilliant American songwriters -- from Cole Porter to Randy Newman -- but the title tells his truth. "It's how I've got to feel," he says, "I'm lucky to do what I've wanted to do all my life."

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Equally at ease with pop, jazz, Latin and samba rhythms, Culver, orchestrated on record by a cast of world-class players, also displays his own lyrical savvy on two selections, the tango-inspired "What Became of Yesterday," and "All in the Stars," with the lines, " But Fate pulls the strings, we're at its command/Sifting us, it seems, like grains of sand."

As a boy, Tom Culver was mesmerized by the flicking images on the silver screen as he sat transfixed in the darkness of the small-town South Dakota movie palaces. Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Donald O'Connor and Dan Daily glided across lacquered dance floors with their glamorous partners and the die was cast. "There was never anyone teaching voice or dance there," he recalls, "but I was in every choral group and high school play -- and the sound of applause was truly a high."

The Navy offered a ticket from the snow swept plains. After service, Tom located in Oakland, California and discovered the Bay Area's theater and music scenes. A succession of record deals with small labels led to a signing with Dot Records where he cut his first singles. But as the company was absorbed by international giant, Gulf & Western, it was a tumultuous era of rock & roll and many traditional pop artists, Tom included, found themselves out of the mix.

So he reinvented himself in Hollywood as a wardrobe man for film and television productions. As a set costumer, he dressed a cast of stars, and was honored to work on Murder She Wrote starring Angela Lansbury. Tom also penned The Murder She Wrote Cookbook, adding the title of "author" to his multi-disciplinary résumé. "This was all a big step for that star-struck kid from South Dakota," he notes.

But the music still echoed. He found a community of like-minded vocalists at piano bars and clubs in Los Angeles, and thanks to the success of artists like Harry Connick Jr. and Diana Krall, traditional pop music was once again being heard. Tom's audiences understood the nuances of this music as he performed at intimate venues including Hollywood's Gardenia. "If you sing cabaret it's like being naked, it's so close," he reveals. And songwriting offered still another avenue for expressive creativity.

Today, in addition to his singing career, Tom takes jazz and tap dance classes, and pursues his hobby of photography. Blessed with a vital physicality, he notes his only vice is a penchant for strong coffee. "The older I got the smarter I got," he laughs. "The life lesson is about surviving."

But Tom's story is much more than survival; it's about forward motion -- to the next song, the next chapter, the next show. "You have to let the past go," he says, " appreciate it, but don't live in it. It brought us here." With the realization of Lucky to Be Me, Tom is already moving into the next chorus of his vibrant, ever expanding life of artistry.
Dearly Beloved performed by Tom Culver