Michael McDermott – Willow Springs (2016)

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Michael McDermott doesn’t let grass grow under his feet. The Chicago native has completed two fine albums with his side project the Westies in the last two years, and now turns his attention to a new solo effort. Willow Springs, due out on June 17 via Pauper Sky records, is honestly more of the same from McDermott — but that’s definitely a good thing.

The title track paints a lush rural landscape with its finger-picked acoustic guitar, while McDermott’s powerful, every-man voice creates a poignant rolling story backed by sparse but effective harmony. Lyrically, the song finds McDermott using his big voice to big effect while the production is pitch perfect. Meanwhile, “Getaway Car’s harmonica-driven opening seems initially familiar, but McDermott’s voice is explosive as thunder and his storytelling, backed by acoustic guitar, bass drum and touches of banjo is uniquely from the heartland.

“Butterfly” slows things down even more, yet brings a relationship into focus. A backing band that includes multi-instrumentalist (and long-time producer) Lex Price, guitarist Will Kimbrough, keyboardist John Deaderick and backing vocalist Heather Horton (McDermott’s wife) continues to play a crucial and unobtrusive role — leaving McDermott’s lyrics to make the big statement. “Butterfly” is an evocative gem, verse after verse.

“Half Empty Kinda Guy” picks up the pace quite nicely, while maintaining McDermott’s lyrical bite. “Folksinger” takes another direction musically. The metaphor of the weary folk singer and a soldier in the field is seamlessly effective in its imagery. The song’s simplicity is part of its undeniable charm. “Let a Little Light In” is as close to a pop song as Michael McDermott gets on Willow Springs. The song chugs along with the joy of a new relationship. Here, the band provides a carefree backing which matches the mood set by McDermott.

“What Dreams May Come” finds McDermott going full circle. The song further highlights Michael McDermott as a producer, perfectly supporting the deeply moving lyrics with circling keyboards and sparse guitar. “What Dreams May Come” is perhaps most effective at casting McDermott’s spell and moving the listener to a different plan. Willow Springs is a thought-provoking journey, from beginning to end.

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier is a bass-playing lawyer living in Atlanta. His first Steely Dan exposure was with an eight-track cassette of 'Pretzel Logic.' He can be reached at slangofages@icloud.com; follow him on Twitter: @slangofages. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Preston Frazier
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