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Michael McDermott - What In The World

  by Kimberly Bright

published: 13 / 9 / 2020

Michael McDermott - What In The World
Label: Pauper Sky
Format: CD


Fabulous latest album from Chicago indie singer-songwriter Michael McDermott who has taken advantage of the recent lockdown to create a introspective collection of gorgeous new songs

Michael McDermott is an American heartland singer-songwriter who would have found a home in music regardless of what decade he had been born. As he has pointed out, he grew up less than ten miles from where John Prine was raised. He has a very compelling presence and, let’s be honest, has also always happened to be a bit dreamy, which does not take away from the seriousness of his art or his prodigious talent in general. This seriousness is especially evident on his new album 'What in the World...' The album was written during the recent quarantine and resulting chaos, a series of events that will surely spawn a million related albums - despite the music industry suffering at the moment. I’m happy to have this one now. McDermott wrote a lot of the material during what he has described as his “morning writing sessions” as part of his daily sobriety discipline, a useful practice straight out of Julia Cameron’s 'The Artist’s Way'. Comparing McDermott to other male singer-songwriters, especially ones from the Midwest or New Jersey, is such a cliche that he specifically mentions it in 'The Things You Want' and uses Dylan’s 'Subterranean Homesick Blues' for 'What in the World', the video for which also pays tongue-in-cheek tribute the original. The fact that he did this should theoretically be annoying, but it really isn’t. In fact, it’s charming and engaging. His lyrics for 'What in the World...' are absolutely spectacular. Whether telling a sad story ('New York, Texas') or name dropping Nietzsche, Del Amitri, and Car Seat Headrest ('Blue Eyed Barmaid') in the same verse, there’s an intimate, emotional warmth in his songs that so other songwriters lack. The cynical retrospection of 'Contender' is a nod to his own career ups and downs since being touted as another Next Big Thing in 1990-1 (“I screwed things up pretty good,” he sings). As he has explained, “Record deal early, some modicum of success, and then the long slow descent and destruction. Jail, rehab, fortunate enough to be alive, man.” Alcoholism and recovery are the themes of 'Die with Me' and 'No Matter What', with the unflinching honesty of Tom Petty or John Mellencamp. The lovely 'The Veils of Veronica' displays a vaguely Waterboys feel to it. A global catastrophe might have been the catalyst for What in the World… but McDermott, being the survivor that he is, would have come up with good work regardless of current events.

Track Listing:-
1 What in the World...
2 New York, Texas
3 Blue Eyed Barmaid
4 The Things You Want
5 The Veils of Veronica
6 Die with Me
7 Contender
8 Mother Emanuel
9 No Matter What
10 Until I Found You
11 Positively Central Park
12 What in the World... (Acoustic Version)

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