Saturday, December 8, 2012

Danny McGaw Eccles Road CD Review

Earlier this year, as I sought shelter from a muggy summer evening in a Kansas City pub, I had the good fortune to hear Danny McGaw and his band for the first time. The quality of the musicianship and the lyrics coming from the stage were striking, and I am happy to report that Danny has released his Eccles Road CD so the rest of you can hear his music too.

Danny grew up outside of Manchester England with aspirations to be a football player (soccer, as we know it in the States), and had started playing professionally when an injury permanently took him out of the game at the age of 18. The end of this dream was a blessing for the rest of us, as he started his music career in earnest, traveling to Isle of Jersey where he wrote music and played in bars. Eventually he moved to the U.S. where he travelled the left coast, playing shows and selling his CDs, until he moved to Kansas City in 2008. He started his own studio there and over time has managed to become a full-time musician, which might even be more difficult than becoming a professional athlete.

Eccles Road is his ninth CD (the others are all out of print), and Danny wrote all of the songs and produced it himself. He recorded it with the assistance of Sam Platt, and mixed and mastered the project on his own. During the seven months of recording he used a few different venues to get the best sounds, including an isolated old farm house for the electric guitars and a room with high ceilings for the drum tracks. Much of the rest of the material was recorded at his home in the city.

On this album you will hear Danny McGaw on vocals and guitar, Dan Hines on bass, John Garofalo on guitar and Sam Platt on drums. This tight band works very well together, which is plainly obvious from the album as well as their live show. Danny did a wonderful job of putting this project together, and apparently he has figured out how to make a good album over the past few decades.

Eccles Road refers to the street he grew up on, so it is not surprising that the first track, “These Streets” has a very personal and familiar tone to it. Danny describes his work as “modern folk music” and I am not going to argue with him as the songs certainly tell a story well, but I also hear the basic building blocks of blues, rock, and soul. You will hear that his voice is unique, with just a touch of an accent that makes his tone and phrasing more interesting. The mix is good, as sound of the instruments and vocals are consistently clear and well balanced.

”Hunted” is the next track, and it is a heavier blues rock tune with a melodramatic tale of a man on the run. We hear a prettier side of Danny’s voice in this song, and as he also effectively uses harmonies in the chorus. Hines’ bass parts really cut through on this track and compliment the different guitar parts in the bridge. This leads straight into “Kansas,” which has a lot of country sounds to it (though still rocking) as it describes the Midwest from the point of view of a man who knows what he is talking about.

There is also a nice folk song, “Lovers on the Mend” that has a simple sound to it due to its sparse instrumentation of mostly banjo, acoustic guitar and piano. This background draws the lyrics and story to the forefront, making this is my favorite track on Eccles Road.

McGaw has compiled his songs so that the genres and tempos are always changing, preventing the listener from becoming complacent. For example, “Man in the Wall” is an uptempo rock tune with a somber tone that comes before “Colors” which is a pretty blend of folk and bluegrass. After this we get to hear “The Dream has Grown” which starts with some funeral home organ, but quickly moves into an almost pop-like song. These transitions were not a slap in the face, but rather kept me interested in what was going on and helped me focus more on his lyrics.

The last track is “Human Family” which was a wise choice. This is a mellow track with nicely picked acoustic guitar, harmonica and maybe some mandolin. The music fits well with the sobering message of the song and provides something for the listener to think about as the album comes to an end.

As a whole, all ten songs are accessible and radio-friendly, with running times between three and five minutes each. I have played this CD quite a few times and have not found myself tiring of it, which does not happen often enough. With the quality of the music and production on Eccles Road, I can say with certainty that this is not the last we will hear of Danny McGaw.

Danny McGaw – Eccles Road

Self Release

www.dannymcgaw.com

10 tracks / 38:25

2 comments:

  1. Great review of a great album!

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  2. Grabbed a copy of this album, and gotta say this review is spot on. Danny is songwriter with plenty to say and a voice like a prophet. I felt that even in places where the recording was a bit too clean for my taste, Danny's voice and message drew from the gritty realism that ultimately meets the listener at the shared human experience. A tight band, finding space and counter rhythm is nothing to go without mention, but for me it is Danny's vocals that standout as exceptional on this recording. Look forward to hearing what the band puts out next.

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