Chuck McDermott – Road Tested
He’s been on the scene since 1971 & this is Chuck McDermott’s first attempt at a “concept album.” His music is always framed by similarities to John Stewart’s intensely melodic approach yet, Chuck always maintains a musical exponent wholly his own.
The title track “Road Tested,” starts with a nice J.J. Cale groove with Jim Lauderdale (vocal) & Big Al Anderson (acoustic & electric guitars) who add vibrancy. Chuck (acoustic guitar/baritone guitar/vocals) has a penchant for eloquent tales, & injects personalities with a pinch of characterization. When added to a melody the lyric comes to life like a short story as accentuated by Faulkner, Hemingway, or Steinbeck. I may have said this earlier but it’s true.
Chuck takes a page from the late John Prine songbook also as he duets beautifully with Elizabeth Cook on “After All This Time” from his new Road Tested (Dropped May 19-Independent) set. Produced by drummer Marco Giovino it’s a well-balanced example of diversified songs by an exceptional artist. From simplistic tunes to intense melodic & gratifying tunes. “Inspiration Point” has sharp imagery & crisp guitar underpinnings with impressive clarity.
What makes this material savvy is Chuck’s determination to explore what other singer-songwriters seldom consider. Is it commercial enough? Mainstream? Is there a hit here? What’s paramount is whether it’s a Chuck McDermott song or not. And that’s all that should matter.
There are some song traditions associated with past influential artists. From singer-songwriters dismissed by the passage of time: Jerry Jeff Walker, Hoyt Axton, Mickey Newbury, John Loudermilk & with the song “Stick Shift,” the humor of Roger Miller.
These writers left an indelible signature on their work. Chuck has this ability & as a friend of the late-singer-songwriter, former Kingston Trio singer & solo artist John Stewart he carries on that tradition admirably. Along with that tenure, a stylization was maintained by Chuck that emanated from the continuity of Stewart’s work & the late Gordon Lightfoot, John Prine & Steve Goodman. It’s a songwriting process that brings along with it meaning & value.
His seasoned voice is experience reminiscent of Buddy Miller, late-career John Martyn & Jon Dee Graham. Voices with charm — but with a hint of innocent cantankerousness. Or is it just maturity? Keep listening.
Musicians – Dan Lancio (guitars), Russ Pahl (pedal steel/electric guitar/jaw harp), John Deaderick (piano/organ/accordion), Ron Eoff (upright/electric bass) featuring Kathleen Parks (fiddle) & Tomi Lunsford, Dorothy Daniels, Lorne Entress, Buffy Stewart & Erica Mantone (bgv).
Highlights – “Road Tested,” “Road Tested Reprise,” “A Little Road & a Stone To Roll,” (written by John Stewart), “Turning of the Wheel,” “One Heart Acre,” “Inspiration Point,” “The Season of Hard Goodbyes,” “After All This Time” & “Stick Shift.”
Color photo courtesy of Chuck’s Facebook. CD @ https://www.chuckmcdermott.com/