Maybe the more appropriate title for this album would be “Second Chance Lounge,” since Michael McDermott was a casualty of the 1990s major label hijinks. Over three albums and two labels he was consistently being pegged as a Dylan and Springsteen devotee, and there was some validity to the claim evidenced in tunes like his first hit single, “A Wall I Must Climb”. After closing out the decade with a self-released album, Bourbon Blue, in 1999, that sold 10,000 copies mostly in his native Midwest area, McDermott is back, albeit on a large indie label.
Five of the songs here are remixed and remastered from Bourbon Blue, including the first single, “Junkie Girl”, an ode to a former girlfriend who was a heroin addict. Of the rest, standouts include the pulsing, organ-laced “Unemployed”, which is a rousing, not-too-serious look at being out of work (“Call me a slacker, you can call me a waste, I’m just a pauper with a prince’s taste”). The Springsteen-like “Spark”, uses the words “Thunder cracks”, which a good Bruce fan would pick up on as a (probably unintentional) Boss reference, even without the “Tunnel of Love” feel to the song.
A capable singer with a knack for literate folk rock, McDermott is a natural fit for fans of Peter Himmelman, The Wallflowers, and the aforementioned Springsteen. At times, those influences still overpower the underlying strength of a song like the elegiac “Murder on Her Lips”, but he is increasingly able to make them work for him rather than against him.
// Notes from the Road
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