Feature Album of the Week – Willow Springs from Michael McDermott

June 17, 2016 | By

Michael McDermott is a poet, a man of words, as well as music. He includes a lyric sheet in his press kit, and with his records. That says much and more about the importance of words to the man and his music.

He released his first album, 620 W. Surf, back in 1991, and has been writing and recording music almost constantly since then, despite serious battles with personal demons. The words and the music have never stopped.

For the last couple of years, Michael has been occupied with his band “The Westies“, in which he partners with his wife, singer and multi instrumentalist Heather Horton. Now, however, just five months after the release of the excellent second album from The Westies, “Six On The Out`, we have a new solo record from McDermott, `Willow Springs`.

This album is very much a song cycle, almost in the style of an essay, opening with a statement of the over arching theme, the potentially redemptive power of love and family, in the title track. In a life of  paths and approaches attempted and frustrated in a search for peace and happiness, the conclusion is `maybe it was you all along`.

`These Last Few Days` begins an accounting of some of the endless questioning, searching and repeated frustration that has, for unknown reasons, never managed to snuff out ultimate hopefulness.

`Maybe I’m stuck in a rut or maybe I should just shut up and lasso the moon
I’ve never understood…why I feel like something good….is coming soon`

In `Getaway Car` the struggles continue:

`Tonight I’m bound for glory, Drinking lightning from a jar
I got a hangman in my head, my love, A war in my backyard
I gotta get away`

The bottom of the cycle arrives in `Butterfly`, the story of the junkie girl who didn`t make it out of the netherworld of demons and addictions.

`I heard the news the other day
I wish I had the faith to pray
But maybe she finally doesn’t hurt`

At the conclusion of the downward spiral, the repeated cry is `I don`t know how I made it out alive.`

`Half Empty Kind of Guy` and `One Minus One` begin the slow climb back, with hope present, but strongly coloured by the understanding that `There ain’t no silver lining, I’ve searched low and high, Yeah I’m a half empty kinda guy.`

The most surprising song in the cycle is the Stax flavoured `Let A Little Light In`. It is the triumphant conclusion that the darkness and setbacks may be inevitable, but so too is the light, the hope, and the power of love, and the southern soul setting of the song is perfect.

`I’m gonna let a little light in, I’m gonna open up the door
This world can be so frightening, mama, Let’s love it a little more`

The cycle concludes with two songs about the passing of Michael`s father, and a song about his young daughter. There is mourning and sadness in the songs about his father, but the conclusion is in the wisdom received from the man:

`He reached his arms up, And he reached to me
He whispered come here son, Hold on….what dreams may come.`

And that leads to the closing remarks of the essay:

`Whisper to me, that you love me, Let me taste your life upon my tongue
Dance in the waves of a thousand rainy days, We won’t stop until its done
Take my hand, babe, I’ve got a plan, Our lives have really just begun
Hold on, what dreams may come.`

Having said all of that, it is just one man`s reaction to the work of a poet, an artist, a storyteller. What is certain is that the songwriting is brilliant throughout, the production is never, ever overdone, and the musicianship throughout is terrific.

This is a record that should be heard, ideally as a whole, but there is much and more in each individual song to reward the listener who chooses a song or two from the set with which to spend time. For this listener, `Butterfly and Shadow in the Window` are the individual stand outs, but listen for yourself. You will not be sorry you did.

Willow Springs is our Feature Album of the Week on FolkNRoots. Check our schedules for the times it will be played. Here is Michael performing the title track live, to whet your appetite.

Tags: , , , ,

Category: Record Reviews

Comments are closed.