If you have not allowed yourself to indulge in the sounds of modern folk music of Edwin McCain you don't know what you are missing. McCain is best known for his stellar track "I'll Be," from the late nineties. He has the most delightful whiskey, raspy vocal tracks that are both seductive and stripped down for the listener's ears. And this his sixth album, The Austin Sessions, McCain is joined by his longtime band mates Larry Changey (guitar), and Craig Shields (saxophone) which offers new compositions, a few old favorites and some choice covers in an acoustic format.
His songs are very easy, soulful and understandable for his faithful fans to digest. "Songwriting has always been the main thing," he says. "Its funny-you can dress'em up however you want to, but it always comes back to the song-to the acoustic guitar and the voice. That's how it started to m, and that's it how it is yet today."
Yeah, they might pull off a few Jimi Hendrix riffs or make their tone reminiscent of Stone Temple Pilots. But as a music critic and musician myself, I found them incredibly derivative, unimaginative, and incapable of forging their own path. Well, maybe they will carve their own path, but I probably won’t be listening to it.
McCain admits that the songwriting process that he usually defaults to the first idea being the right idea. "This album (Austin Sessions) was a lot less production then other albums I worked on Lava/Atlantic records now that I'm recording for ATC. It's stripped down and really intimate so that there is a closeness than so big overblown records which are fun to make, but I want to offer other sides of the coin."
This modern alternative folk collection of songs highlights McCain as a singer songwriter. "I'm not forging any new ground. I am carrying on the tradition on with the Troubadours. It's my nature to be out there touching people entertaining and giving them a break from their lives."
McCain's lyrics are incredibly lucid and his use of beautiful harmonies is outstanding. He admits that the record can be used to kick back and chill out his delicious sounds. While he admits that he was self-taught by ear, he says anything that what sounds interesting was probably done out of ignorance. He doesn't consider his music poetic, but it he certainly has a flare for fluid prose. His strong education experience afforded him the opportunity to grab a handle on language. His affinity to be influenced by David Wilcox, poet, and Kevin Kenny another poet and the words of Bob Dylan, James Taylor and Tom Waits round out his tutelage.
McCain confesses that his typical songwriting process is to go down to New Orleans and dive into the bars. But that process has been curtailed not that he says he is friend of Bill W and Alcohol Anonymous. Before he used to hang out in the gutters and bars to scrounge up songs.
"I was one of those people that used Hemmingway as an excuse to be drunk all the time. I now find myself coming from a more hopeful place, loving place and thankful place," he says. "David Wilcox has been one of those people that manages to take eternal and worldly themes and get them in the and one half minutes and that is a great influence to my songwriting."
McCain seems to have found himself and his place as a songwriter on this sixth record and first record on ATC records. He says this record has freed him to perform in the manner he is most used to - with an acoustic guitar and his strong vocals. He delivers a sort of honesty and integrity that has been his guiding force throughout his career.
He has recently finished background vocal harmonies with Bret Michaels lead vocalist and singer/songwriter of Poison on the first single track entitled "Raine." "Bret's a great guy. He spends a lot of time being a good guy and he is genuinely concerned about his fans. He is very active in his songwriting and he cares about the material he produces and the music he creates," McCain said on a phone call from Seattle.
The Austin Sessions starts off with the first track "Let it Slide" a lively, country fiddle reminiscence of John Mellencamp feel of a song with the effective use if mandolins. McCain tells me the tune was inspired by a friend of his who was given a nicknamed by Elvis and how they were chauffeured to an all night bar by the cops. McCain's song stands all the test of time tests him in this all-acoustic album. It's real loose and not overproduced.
"Go Be Young" McCain sustains several high notes on this sexy saxophone track. It is a relationship story with a Native American who shares many stories/yarns with him. A drunkard shares his disposition in telling not to follow his path in life and make your life a better place to be. The cut has a similar feel as "I'll be" pervading this tune.
"I Want It All," the first single cut has beautiful harmonies and saxophone deals with a relationship and how lucky he is to have this love in his life. "The good, the bad, the happy and the sad" repeats on this uplifting song. The song fits the 'Triple A' format. "Little Girls," a troubadour not knowing he is causing all the little girls to fall in love with him as he makes his way across the country singing his songs. "Romeo and Juliet," originally record by Mark Knopler of Dire Straits a great cover of the classic romantic love tale. An acoustic track with a very full feeling to it. "I think that Mark hit this song out of the ballpark when he wrote this song. It's one of the greatest songs of all time," says McCain.
Edwin McCain is in a serious dialogue with HBO for "The Acoustic Highway" where he is himself traveling the nation's highways and byways in a 66 Cadillac search of great songs and stories told by a wide range of musical guests.
Edwin McCain is the ultimate crooner. His lovely raspy voice pulls you into his songs and his attack on the strings of his acoustic guitar is nothing but sheer perfection. McCain nails it with this sixth album; The Austin Sessions and we can expect great things from him in the future. Check out this engaging modern alternative folk CD, you wouldn't be disappointed.
Susan Salva is a Staff Writer. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.