Edwin McCain: Scream & Whisper

Will Harris

Edwin Mccain

Scream & Whisper

Label: DRT
US Release Date: 2004-06-22
UK Release Date: 2004-07-05

I had the opportunity to interview Edwin McCain in 2001, not long after the release of his album, Far From Over, had hit stores. He was like a proud parent when speaking of the record, as many musicians tend to be when promoting their new product, but this one was particularly special to him.

This one was going to make a statement.

"For so long in the industry, I was just doing whatever anybody told me I should do," McCain explained to me. "'Sure, I'll do that! No problem! I'm your man! Whose ass do you want me to kiss today?' Just for the sake of trying to maintain a career, y'know, but at the cost of being more honest and being myself. And this whole record is my trying to put together an antidote for all that.

"It's either gonna be one of those things where people go, 'Yeah, right on, that's great,' or, like, 'Hey, we liked you better when you were phony!' But it's either gonna be one way or the other. It's gonna be a make-or-break kind of thing, and that's kind of what I was looking for, so, hopefully, it'll work out."

Yeah, it didn't work out.

After spending six years and four albums on Atlantic Records, singer/songwriter McCain made the move to an indie label in 2003, releasing The Austin Sessions on ATC Records; the label also put out McCain's first DVD, entitled Mile Marker: Songs and Stories from the Acoustic Highway.

Although the understandable presumption is that the move from major label to indie was one of necessity rather than design at the time it occurred, it was a transition that was inevitable. McCain's style hasn't changed dramatically since he released his debut, Honor Among Thieves, in 1995, even though the musical climate around him has shifted considerably. With no intentions of adjusting his art to match the whims of the ever-fickle industry, where else is a singer/songwriter like McCain going to find a home except on a label that specifically caters to his existing manner of music?

Funny thing about that, though. ATC apparently wasn't the way to go. A check of their website indicates that McCain's album was the last thing to have been released by the label, and that was on February 25th, 2003. Not exactly a good sign, commercially speaking.

As such, McCain picked a new three-letter combination and signed to DRT Entertainment, a label that, on the surface, doesn't seem to be an instant fit, either; a visit to their website shows that McCain's labelmates include Gwar and Clutch. Further investigation, however, shows that John Wesley Harding, Seven Mary Three, and Lit are also part of the DRT family ... or, in other words, fellow escapees from the major label trenches.

Scream & Whisper, McCain's DRT debut, is, you guessed it, more of the same predominantly acoustic folk/pop/rock he's been doing throughout his career. This isn't a bad thing; he does it well, better than many of his peers. There's no just particular step forward or backward.

Having to nail down the absolute best song on the album is an easy task; it's "Shooting Stars", a co-write with Angie Aparo, a great musician (and fabulous vocalist) in his own right. This isn't to say that the rest of the album is bad; it's just that, wow, this particular song absolutely roars (insofar as a McCain song can roar) with hit single potential. At just under four minutes, it's the perfect length to get McCain radio airplay and score talk show appearances, and the chorus takes but one listen to get stuck in your head. If there's any real competition on the disc, it's "Say Anything", which features vocal assistance from Maia Sharp.

McCain definitely goes out of his way to avoid making it feel as though he's just fronting a bunch of anonymous studio musicians. Guitarist Pete Riley co-writes several songs with McCain (including the aforementioned "Shooting Stars"), one with Paul O'Brien ("Save The Rain", an album highlight), and even gets a solo writing credit on "Day Will Never Come".

The only obvious complaint about the album comes from the song "Couldn't Love You More". It seems to tread a little close in title to his past hit, "I Could Not Ask for More", and, given that they're both romantic ballads, it seems a little suspicious. It could easily lead one to presume that it's a desperate bid for airplay. The irony, however, is that this album is chock full of potential singles. In addition to the aforementioned songs, there's album opener "Coming Down" and even the slightly silly "Farewell yo Tinkerbell", both of which would easily fit into most adult-alternative radio playlists. There's even a cover of "Maggie May" tacked on as a bonus track, but that'd be taking the easy way out and underselling the fine originals, so hopefully DRT won't go down that path.

Some might say that Edwin McCain makes inoffensive acoustic music, but, hey, someone's got to do it. We can at least take comfort in the fact that he does it in a catchier, more enjoyable manner than most.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.