Michael McDermott – Willow Springs (2016) [Web FLAC]

Label/Cat#:Pauper Sky Records
Year:June 17, 2016

You won t have to visit veteran singer-songwriter Michael McDermott s home in the titular town to know he has a pretty substantial collection of Dylan, Mellencamp and Springsteen CDs. On his 10th album in a 25-year career, the recently clean and sober McDermott pays tribute to those influences, and others, by wrapping this entire folk-rock (emphasis on the former) release around those sources.

There s nothing wrong with that of course; half the artists in his field have similar musical references, and McDermott has strong enough melodic and especially lyrical talents to carve out a distinctive niche, especially as this album moves into its second half.

McDermott has a lot to say, and uses these songs to say it. His plentiful, often colorful words enliven these topics, whether it s about starting over with a new love ( Let a Little Light In ), reflecting on old personal demons, now hopefully behind him ( Half Empty Kind of Guy ) or spinning a tale of a loser on the run from the law in the very Springsteen-ish right down to its title Getaway Car. Occasionally he gets caught up in his own artful alliteration for alliteration s sake in the title track where he talks his way through Pimps and pushers, presidents/ the paupers preach of tenements like he s aiming to prove he can one-up Dylan at his own game.

There isn t much comic relief, but McDermott displays dry humor on the sly Folksinger where he uses his own occupation ( I don t want to be a folksinger anymore/ think I ll write me a big hit song and be loved and adored/ I ll have handlers and groupies and hell you know what that s for ) as a metaphor for soldiers, Christians and gravediggers who may also question their professions. Some tunes like the seven-minute Shadow in the Window, a story song likely about the recent death of his father, are touching, ruminative and almost painfully introspective.

The crisp, predominantly acoustic instrumentation enhanced by such well-known industry names as Will Kimbrough (Willie Sugarcapps) and keyboardist John Deaderick (Don Henley) along with McDermott s own production emphasizes his voice and words, perhaps to the detriment of melodies that often seem like vessels to contain them. That said, McDermott s obvious love of craft, and refusal to either sell out or commercialize his rootsy sound after all these years is commendable. And even if he s not pushing the boundaries of his genre, this album makes you appreciate his talents and root for him to succeed in an industry that hasn t shown much love for his output in the past quarter century of trying.

1. Willow Springs (06:25)
2. These Last Few Days (04:01)
3. Getaway Car (03:58)
4. Soldiers of the Same War (04:44)
5. Butterfly (04:37)
6. Half Empty Kinda Guy (04:19)
7. One Minus One (04:37)
8. Folksinger (03:38)
9. Let a Little Light In (03:36)
10. Shadow in the Window (07:01)
11. Willie Rain (03:24)
12. What Dreams May Come (04:42)