I always like receiving music from an artist new to me, and Tony McLoughlin is just that…even though he is on his seventh studio album and has toured the US and Europe. He’s an Irishman, a definite bonus in my mind, and this new album, True Native features another Irishman, Philip Donnelly, who also has an extensive CV in the studios of Nashville and numerous live outings. My only misgivings before listening to this were a number of references on previous reviews to a Springsteen sound…I think I am the only person on the planet (well, apart from Ritchie Blackmore) who just cannot ‘get’ what his legions see in him…I won’t let that colour my judgement however, as playing and compositional ability are the pointers I use to decide if I like an artist.
So, on pressing play, I welcomed the more Petty like strains of Blood On Blood with a vocal that has a nice timbre that sounds like Dylan has been on the lozenges! The backing is all chord driven electric guitars and supplies a neat background to the storyline and then serves up a gentle, picked solo of high quality. Flying Bird is next with a sparser backing of strummed acoustic and picked electric that ensures that Tony’s own sound is at the forefront. The slide guitar (a bit down in the mix at first) is worth listening closely to: if only we’d had a solo to build on that lovely tone…sadly it wasn’t to be. The Colour Of Spring moves from rock styled Americana into the country essence that permeates this familiar pattern with lovely harmony vocals from Jean…a bit too country for me, but the guitars are worth a listen and the solo on the lower few strings and frets is quite clever. True Native does have a little Springsteen about it…but not too much. It does, however, have a washboard like sound that is rattling away in the background that distracted me for the whole song…unless it was a demented but light on its hooves horse or buffalo! The lyrics tell a meaningful American story but it is all story, whereas I wanted more guitar…because the electric playing behind it all is a delight, but that’s where it stayed. Here Come The Wind has a slightly fuzzed guitar that gives it a Quo does T-Rex in the countryside feel. The slide solo makes everything even better with its well-paced and crafted gliding…too short! Treeline moves deeper into the country but saved by an intuitive slide solo that is sheer class. Below Zero is next with a slow Neil Young feel…assuming his singing has improved! The slide is again the star for me as its clever pacing and placing adds considerably to the atmosphere. This is by far my favourite here. A cover version next with Butch Hancock’s If You Were a Bluebird…more country leanings but with more tasteful guitar where you can hear the plectrum on the strings in a way that adds to the sound. Otherwise, it is fairly ‘so-so’ and the lyrics are a little err, tortuous to my mind. The final track, Mercury, is gentle picked acoustic chords with the occasional harmonica…a sort of modern-day Donovan which is no surprise as Philip worked extensively with him in the 70s.
All in all, this is an album for Americana lovers…if that isn’t you, there is still a lot to be gleaned from this set of finely crafted songs…the instrumentation throughout is excellent and, especially with Below Zero and Treeline that repays multiple listens to fully appreciate the guitar work on display.
SEVENdoodle paws out of TEN …
- Blood On Blood
- Flying Bird
- The Colour of spring
- True Native
- Here Come the wind
- Below Zero
- If You Were a Bluebird
Tony McLoughlin: acoustic and electric guitars, Hammond, harmonica
Philip Donnelly: slide and electric guitars
Joe Gallagher: bass, guitar
Gev Barrett: drums
Jean Anne Chapman Tarleton: vocals
Recorded atGaf Studios, Tipperary; Jeans vocals at Tom Harding’s Studio, Nashville
Produced byPhilip Donnelly
(The iTunes run on track this time brought me the wonderful guitar tones of the masterful Tony McPhee on his titular Blues At Ten album…glorious guitar over spoken ‘news items’ featuring bluesmen of the past…for example: “police arrested Robert Johnson for speeding in his Terraplane…they stopped him by putting stones in his passway. Daft but clever integration of song titles and a slight departure from his Groundhog days but still rather good.)