When Pat McGee set out to record his new self-titled album, he wanted the albums he grew up listening to in the 1970s to have a palpable influence on it.
“I was inspired to write a record that was not based on a ‘single’ but on the wholeness of the complete album,” Pat explains. “I was at a friend’s house, listening to what I thought was someone’s playlist on an iPod. When I realized they were spinning full albums on vinyl, I was blown away. The very next day, I decided to buy a record player and picked up the ten records that lit the fire in me to start playing music, including seminal records by James Taylor, Jackson Browne, and Crosby, Stills, and Nash.”
You can certainly hear these influences throughout his new album. You really can’t pigeonhole this album into one particular genre. There’s country, rock, blues, soul, Motown, Americana and funk littered throughout this album (and probably a few more to boot). I guess the best label would be singer-songwriter if you had to choose one. Not only are there a lot of different genre influences, but many great musicians came onto this project to lend their talents. McGee reached out to many prominent names, as he wanted to “swing for the fences” on this particular album. And they all said yes to his pleasure. This dream team in McGee’s eyes includes musical legends The Section, Little Feat’s Paul Barrere, Blues Traveler’s John Popper, the Punchbrothers’ Gabe Witcher and Train’s Pat Monahan. This is in addition to McGee’s talented band. Quite the lineup! So does this album live up to McGee’s expectations? I can say with certainty yes.
The album kicks off with “Bad Idea,” a song that features some slick guitar play. It’s an interesting choice to start the album with a five-minute song, as I’ve found most albums start off with a song in the three to three and a half minutes range. It can be hard to grab listeners’ attentions with a longer song to start off an album. Nevertheless the rich instrumentation is a great precursor to the rest of the album. McGee is joined by Train front man Pat Monahan on “Overboard,” a song about dealing with the overwhelming feeling of falling in love with someone. At first listen this song may seem a little cheesy, but with more listens I find it to be heartfelt and sincere. Monahan and McGee harmonize well together too. The rich instrumentation is on full display again in “Four Door Dynamo.” The song has an easy-going, carefree attitude about it that helps you overlook the lyrics, which aren’t the best in my mind, but not the worst. I just felt they could’ve been a little better. But as I said I really enjoy the instrumentation on this song.
The upbeat, bluesy rock song “Take The Long Way” is a song that can put a smile on your face. The theme of the song is appreciating what you have in life and savoring your moments with them. It’s a really simple theme, but that works just fine with such great instrumentation behind it. It lets the song breathe and really grow onto the listener. The sound of drums kicks off “Caroline.” It’s really piercing and grabs the listeners’ attention, leaving you wonder what’s going to happen next. This song may turn some off because it’s around eight minutes long, but that would be a mistake. It really tells a love story well and once you give the song a chance you can really feel it and connect with it. It’s one of my favorite songs on the album. “When Did Everything Go Wrong” is about a man wondering how a relationship suddenly turned sour. He’s left with all of these questions, but he can’t find any answers to them. It paints the picture of exasperation and I thought McGee’s vocals did a good job expressing this emotion.
“We Need Each Other” is a man reflecting back on his life and finding more than friendship in someone. I think the songwriting is good in this song, but the line, “we need each other like a stellar atmosphere,” felt generic and out-of-place. It kind of throws the flow of the song off for me. Other than that though I thought the songwriting and instrumentation blended together nicely. Another one of my favorite tracks on this album is “When It Hurts,” a brilliant little love song. The main crux of the song is that the man and woman in love have seemed to drift apart, but they hurt so much from it that they realize that this isn’t going to change. This is the kind of songwriting I enjoy, as it makes you think as you listen.
Motown meets funk meets blues best describes “Kite String.” It has an infectious beat that’s easily to move your head along with as it plays. The sound gets even more interesting when an organ makes an appearance towards the end of the song along with a harmonica. I’m not sure what genre you would put this song under, as there is a melting pot of influences, but I know I like it. The classic rock tinged “Rhode Island” features the best guitar-play on the entire album. In an album with plenty of great instrumentation, this says a lot. The fiddles play in “Trial By Fire,” a song about a man reflecting on his younger years and how his “trial by fire” moments are what made him the man he is today. He grew up and learned from his “kid” moments. I’m sure older listeners can really connect with this song, as it is more targeted towards them.
“Stronger Than I Appear” is about overcoming odds and people underestimating you. It’s a motivational theme without the cheesiness of motivational songs. Too many times these types of songs get too much like those posters you see on the wall in the waiting room at a corporate headquarters. This song avoids that and instead has a very genuine, positive attitude that the listener can get behind. The final song on McGee’s self-titled album is “Jack’s Song,” which has a strong country influence. The song seems to be sung from the point of view of a father to his son, giving him advice on how to live life. I find the song to be well written and I really enjoy the fiddles in the bridge of the song. “Jack’s Song” is a sentimental song with a nice message that really ends the album on a strong note.
Pat McGee is very proud of this album and for good reason too. Once you get into the album it’s a very fun listen, especially for music fans in general. You can feel the craftsmanship and artistry that’s on display throughout it. What impressed me the most was the excellent instrumentation in each song. I really have no complains at all when it comes to this, as every song impressed me in this area. Despite a few bumps, I thought the songwriting was pretty good too and meshed with the instrumentation well. McGee’s vocals were impressive throughout the album too and reminded me a lot of Neil Young. While this isn’t strictly a country album, the country influence is noticeable. As I said before it would be unfair to put it under one genre, so I would advise to approach this as a music album. For fans of 70s music, you’ll really enjoy it. Really though I think anyone who can enjoy well-composed music should enjoy this album. Pat McGee swung for the fences and hit a home run with this album.