REVIEW: Chuck McDermott “38 Degrees and Raining” is Gritty-Ideal Tenor


Chuck McDermott – 38 Degrees and Raining

Iowa-born Chuck McDermott has worn many hats in his career but most importantly his gritty-ideal tenor voice has the troubadour richness. Like John Prine, Jon Dee Graham & Buddy Miller.

While powerful singers like Presley, & Jim Morrison have their place in rock that raspy voice of a McDermott, John Martyn, or Leonard Cohen always manages to convey sincerity, rough & rural. Whiskey-tinged, smoker’s gruff & street credibility.

Chuck’s 7 song EP 38 Degrees and Raining (Drops March 26–Amber Gate Music) finds him in his 5th decade. Though the Boston-based artist sometimes touches upon political & social issues, he doesn’t entirely compromise his Americana-Roots tradition. Politics is dangerous ground in music. Neil Young has suffered for it, but McDermott seems to negotiate that path wisely.

A coincidence? Just 2 days ago I listened to the late John Stewart’s CD “Blondes,” & said to myself how much I missed his kind of music. Stewart was always excellent. And Chuck McDermott was there. The title song of McDermott’s CD has a wonderful John Stewart feel to the composition — the acorn doesn’t fall too far from the tree. But that acorn is indeed a tree today, musically.

With “We Will Walk Through the Streets of the City,” a haunting, gospel intense ballad effective even today, written by Garfield Hayward (1880-1931) with lyrics adapted by Chuck. It’s a well-recorded song, dramatic with deep poetic lyrics. Percussively it’s mindful of recent Tom Waits.

“On a Night Like This,” winds through cabaret-noir shadow-lined streets that may have been walked by Brecht-Weill. It’s a beautiful melody with a degree of creepiness. Thanks to a Marc Ribot-type lead guitar as performed eloquently by Duke Levine & a Euro-flavored accordion (Joe “Sonny” Barbato) with haunting female vocal (Anne Lyon McDermott). It’s atmospheric & excellent. Play late at night at your own risk.

Musicians at play: Marco Giovino (drums), Richard Gates (bass), Marty Ballou (upright bass), Peter Hoffman, Tony Savarino, Kevin Barry, Chris Rival & Duke (lead guitars), Luther Dickinson (slide guitar), John Deaderick (B3/piano), the McCrary Sisters (vocals), B.J. Cole (pedal steel guitar), Hayley Thompson-King, Deni Hlavlinka, & Jeff Ramsey (vocals), Mimi Rabson (Stroh violin), & Phil Grenadier (trumpet).

“Hold Back the Water – Remix,” is an ambitious tune. Vocals deep & vivid — lots of musical sonics, a dialogue & sharp lead guitar.


The finale is a pleasant enough melody. “Here’s the Thing About America,” – despite its political overtones one needs to listen but remember there are still things you can do & say in America you can’t in other foreign countries. People tend to forget that freedom. But I think Chuck has patriotism & that he’s trying to bring things to people’s attention. If so, I respect that.

John Stewart would’ve been proud of this Chuck McDermott effort – that’s for certain.

The 31-minute CD will be available at Bandcamp/Soundcloud @


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