Album review: MICHAEL McDERMOTT – What In The World

MICHAEL McDERMOTT - What In The World

[Release date 06.05.20]

I’ve been reasonably positive about previous releases by Chicago based Americana singer songwriter Michael McDermott.  And if you’re looking for a singer songwriter in the great American troubadour mould, look no further.

That is, so long as you’re not looking for a new breed.  Because, it takes about 2 seconds into the title track opener for the one arm bandit wheels in your subconscious to align and register ‘Springsteen’, and within another 2 of the vocals kicking in ‘Dylan’ (although elsewhere he sounds far more like The Boss).

But you have to hand it to McDermott – he’s prolific.  What In The World is his 15th solo album (alongside his more recent work with The Westies), and to be fair, if you like Springsteen (and Dylan) – McDermott namechecks them both in ‘The Things You Wanted’ – and maybe a splash of Billy Joel (on the Uptown Girl-tinged ‘Contender’), then McDermott is your man.

He’s seen life, for sure, and in the early in 90′s – long before the drink, drugs, jail, rehab and ultimately, redemption – he was labelled as ‘the next Springsteen’, and showered with accolades such as ‘possibly the greatest undiscovered talent of his generation’.

Frankly it probably set him up for his fall from early career success.  And as he acknowledges, perhaps somewhat harshly, in the semi-autobiographical ‘Contender’, “I could have been a contender, not like the pretender I am”.  But to his credit – for a man who life has knocked him down 100 times or more – he’s kept coming back for more, and What In The World Is another quality release.

But as my wife observed as the album drew to a close – with an acoustic demo reprise of the title track – “Why’s he trying to sound like Bob Dylan?”  Well hey, Bob doesn’t anymore, so I guess someone has to.  And while The Boss may not have hung up his spurs yet, McDermott is a pretty authentic substitute for those in need of a fix.  ***1/2

Review by Pete Whalley



 

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