PressReview Mid Tenn Music
By C Bret Campbell
Kentucky’s Dylan – Mike McGuire
Ok, right off, how can I not like a guy that writes a song to commemorate the “Great Nashville Flood”? I was there. OK, not exactly… they called us and told us not to come to work the day the rain started, so it was a few days before I saw the devastation first-hand. But, even if he had only sent me the one song, I would have fallen hard and fast and run to hit the download button for the rest of the record.
I’ve had this one o the platter for days. I keep thinking I’ll write it up when I find the right words. It keeps on spinning and I keep on listening and just enjoying, heck I’ve played the whole record through while just staring at this page twice, now! OK, I think that should just about cover this review…
McGuire does his thing from the great state of Kentucky. Using acoustic guitars and mandolin backed by old-timey fiddles and light percussion, the mood of the Kentucky Appalachians is prevalent all the way through the record. There is a melancholy and lonesome feeling to the music, but it is never the focus.
Even with the sad sounds (oh, I love the sad songs), the message is positive and inspiring. “You can save your money till the day you die, Ain’t no ATM on the other side. There’s always somebody needs a little more help, no I don’t go ’round feelin’ sorry for myself.”
Mike has a naturally smokey smooth voice that is as much like Bob Dylan’s as any I’ve ever heard, but without the ubiquitous mumbling (thank goodness). His style is simple and honest, and delivers his lines like a punch in the face with a feather pillow.
Sam Bush and Prine come to mind as the disc spins, especially on “Western Kentucky Parkway;” a tongue in cheek slap at the administration and a reverent salute to the musicians, towns and people from Paradise to Louisville.
McGuire isn’t exactly a youngster, but knowing how much the young people I know appreciate the aforementioned, I don’t think the wisdom and maturity of his songs would be lost on them or any other generation – especially those that grew up in the Southeast. A perfect example of that is “Everybody’s Got a Religion.”
There is a strong spirit writing these songs. They move hearts and touch souls. This is the kind of music that made me pick up a guitar and struggle with three chords and my own thoughts and feelings. I’ll be playing this one for a while, and gleaning all I can from it. Whether you are a picker or just a music lover, I strongly suggest you check your Mike McGuire.
Review:Beyond The Ark
Artist: Mike McGuire
Album: Beyond the Ark
Review by Nick DeRiso
Americana singer-songwriter Mike McGuire travels a land of heavy weather, echoing church bells, sad tales and long memories. But he never lets go of the one thing that binds us together: Faith, in ourselves, in our future paths, in our country. It’s something that adds a sustaining power to Beyond the Ark, even as McGuire deals with a number of damaging emotions.
That starts with a creeping dread on the opening “Cumberland River Blues,” as McGuire crafts a series of devastating images in the wake of Tennessee’s recent flooding disaster. He sings with the weary acceptance of early Bruce Springsteen -- even as Phil Stirgwolt answers, phrase for phrase, with a plaintive dobro. “Twelve inches of rain in 48 hours; Mama light a candle, we ain’t got no power,” McGuire sings, with every word sounding like a requiem. “Wrap the baby in a blanket, we’ll climb in this canoe. The Cumberland River’s angry and there ain’t nothing we can do.”
“Charlie Poole,” a tender memory of a town scallywag, boasts a similar mixture of Springsteen character sketches and plucky mountain riffs. Stirgwolt again serves as the centerpiece accompaniment to McGuire through a plucky mid-song picking session. “Nobody Says Nothing (Quite Like You)” adds a rattling beat from drummer Mike Alger and bassist Rico Thomas, as McGuire tells a clinched-teeth tale of quiet recriminations. An itinerate rhythm gives the tune a pleasant country-rock feel, even as McGuire delivers some of his most stinging putdowns to a distant lover.
The lone cover tune here is “Twilight,” a 1975 single written by Robbie Robertson for The Band, and it retains the original’s half-lit sorrow. As McGuire makes the song’s familiar plea (“don’t leave me alone in the twilight; twilight is the loneliest time of day”), Stirgwolt switches to a distant, particularly rustic harmonica. Robertson’s lyric fits so snugly into the broader atmosphere of McGuire’s Beyond the Ark, the uninitiated might not even recognize that “Twilight” was written by someone else.
McGuire then takes the passing military imagery of that song (“a young man serves his country, while the old man guards his home”) to its logical conclusion on the subsequent “Military Time.” As a young recruit begins his journey into the service in Iraq, learning hard lessons along the way, McGuire’s band echoes the lock-step conformity required of such sacrifice. Scott Kiper adds a crunchy lead guitar, amid a snapping rhythm, and Mike Schroeder takes over for a few well-placed frenetic runs on the mandolin.
“Roses for the Moon” moves back into the easy gait McGuire first established on Beyond the Ark, but this time he adds a flinty romanticism that recalls Warren Zevon. As Schroeder moves to fiddle, giving the track a dirt-road authenticity, McGuire pulls one of the laconic lyrical twists that made Zevon’s work so compelling: He travels all night to make a grand gesture to a girl, only to find himself arrested and alone.
Kiper matches McGuire lick for rueful lick on the subsequent Katrina-themed “Leaving New Orleans” which, instead of the expected happy-go-lucky Acadian stomp, returns to the sweeping portent of McGuire’s initial track. Dashing out ahead of the gathering hurricane-force winds, and amid a lugubrious signature from keyboardist David Taylor, the Crescent City quickly becomes nothing but a fading rearview speck. Just then, though, as McGuire surveys a truck filled to the point of tipping with all of his earthly belongings, he hedges a bit: “I’m leaving New Orleans … but I’ll be back … I hope!” He can’t, he won’t, give up.
On “The Streets are Quiet on Christmas Day,” McGuire offers a delicately wrought lament for the wider meaning of the holiday shared after the echoing excitement of tearing into presents has faded. Mike Cecil’s steel guitar then gives an old-time country feel to the closing “I Count the Days,” which finds McGuire studying hard to divine just how much longer he will be away from his true love. Even as he struggles with a forlorn mood, he can’t help but be aware of how common these feelings are, and he gains a sense of community in that shared longing. “In the morning,” he plaintively sings, “I’ll be waiting at the airport with all of the other people who are leaving.”
A glint of empathy, and of hope, shoots through even the quietest, saddest moments on Beyond the Ark, and that’s what makes it special.
Review by Nick DeRiso
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
Read MoreReview:Beyond The Ark
Beyond the Ark
Beyond the Ark - Mike McGuire
Mike McGuire generates music with a bluegrass sound through a folk feel. The Kentucky native surely could tell a story through his impressive guitar playing skills alone, yet still includes some interesting lyrical stories on his 2010 release, Beyond the Ark.
His style is a blend of the story-telling nature of Gordon Lightfoot with the singing voice of Bob Dylan, though all of McGuire’s lyrics are easily heard and understood.
Beyond the Ark begins with “Cumberland River Blues,” a (not surprisingly) bluesy number about the angry river rising with impressive guitar and banjo playing that’ll have you toe tapping in no time. McGuire has some interesting insight, like “fast money can make a faster fool” on “Nobody Says Nothing (Quite Like You)” and tales of life in the army on “Military Time.” “Roses for the Moon” is based on the story of the American astronaut who drove across the country for her love, and “The Streets are Quiet on Christmas Day” is about just what the title suggests. That’s the thing about Mike McGuire’s songs; they are very straightforward. And while the lyrics are sometimes simple, they have topics that are relatable and give a comforting, familiar feeling. It’s as if you’re listening to your uncle telling stories by the lake.
McGuire doesn’t always have the greatest voice, but there’s an endearing quality that makes it grow on the listener. His age is heard in his voice, and it is that age and experience, that aid in his ability to tell stories so effectively.
Beyond the Ark is an album that has the qualities of folk music that make it enjoyable. All of the songs are slow to mid-tempo, relaxing numbers that tell interesting stories to a skillfully played backdrop. If you’re a fan of folk or Americana, you’ll certainly enjoy the latest effort by Mike McGuire.......Christen
author: Alt Country Reviews
Mike McGuire - Beyond The Ark Probably you, like I have never heard of Mike McGuire, an American singer-songwriter from Kentucky who brings folk rock material. . On his new album in the studio, he is assisted by local musicians. In "Beyond The Ark" features nine original compositions, fantastic stories told "in a voice cut out for such things. He sometimes reminiscent of like-minded souls like Townes Van Zandt and John Prine. Mike McGuire is a fine storyteller. This is just a testament to a beautiful song about Charlie Poole, a short but salute the flamboyant life of the deceased to drink singer and banjo player. This strong line is to put songs on the U.S. Navy during the Iraq War (Military Time) Roses For The Moon, a song inspired by the former astronaut Lisa Nowak. About her attempted abduction and beating of Air Force Captain Colleen Shipman. The exemplary storyteller knows more than thirty minutes attention to themselves. All great Americana songs on "Beyond The Ark" are silent testimony to the strong songwriting abilities of Mike McGuire, who knows many pleasant moments listening to concerns. A very nice and interesting job. (John Shoemaker)