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3.5 stars

This is a first for me. I haven’t written a review for Rockeyez that hasn’t been connected with the hard rock or metal genre so far. So I was a little hesitant when I sat down to write this review because here at Rockeyez we primarily cover a heavier style of music. But then I thought that there have been reviews on this site by the likes of Rod Stewart, so why couldn’t I do this?

I grew up listening to hard rock and metal in my teens and therefore it continues to be the style of music I listen to most, but over the last several years, I have found the singer/songwriter genre to be a very interesting one. After all, if you look at my 2006 Rockeyez “Year in Review,” I had artists like Edwin McCain and SISTER HAZEL listed in my top CD’s of the year. I guess you could say man cannot survive on METAL alone!! And I’m sure most people—even if they fly the metal flag—have another style of music they listen to as well… depending on their mood at a particular time.

Now back to the review at hand…

There are certainly some legendary singer/songwriters in this world. Names like Elton John (along w/ Bernnie Taupin of course), Bob Dylan and Elvis Costello spring to mind. And being from New Jersey, I almost have to mention Bruce Springsteen! But there is a great new generation of artists in this genre that a lot of people may not be familiar with. Do names like the aforementioned Edwin McCain, Jeffrey Gaines, Ari Hest, Stephen Kellogg, Angie Aparo or Marc Broussard along with Michael McDermott sound familiar to you? If not, and you have an open mind to something a little off the beaten (metal) path, then maybe you might want to read on.

Chicago, IL native Michael McDermott has been around for a while now. He started out with his major label debut, “620 W. Surf” in 1991 on Giant/Warner Records and then switched labels for his following two albums--“Gethsemane” (1994) and a self-titled effort in 1996--on SBK/EMI Music. After SBK went under McDermott, went the independent route releasing “Bourbon Blue” in 1999 and then signing with Koch Records for the release of “Last Chance Lounge” in 2000. In my opinion, that album may have been his finest effort to date. In 2004 he went independent again releasing “Ashes,” all the while touring almost constantly around his home-base area in the Midwestern US and occasionally hitting the East and West Coasts.

Now it’s 2007, and Michael has hooked up with One Little Indian Records for the release of “Noise From Words”, his latest in a long line of solid albums. Does “Noise From Words” match up to the strong “Last Chance Lounge” record? Well, not quite... but it is still a good album. Off the bat, “Noise” is more stripped back then his previous efforts. But although arrangements or production has never been an issue with McDermott, the real draw to his music is the poetry-like lyrics he presents. McDermott has a very special way of creating a story that completely draws the listener in.

Noise From Words” opens with “Mess of Things” which almost has a deep southern feel to it with its banjo-like guitar. The song is very mellow and almost a little too much so to open an album. I could actually see this song closing out one of his records instead.

“Still Ain’t Over You Yet” continues with its mellow acoustic approach but this time the song evolves in a more cohesive effort with its arrangement and nice chorus. I’d be remiss if I didn’t let you in on some of McDermott’s brilliant lyrics. With lines like “Most nights I wished that we’d never met/ And most days I choke on my fear and regret/ But I hate to admit that I still ain’t over you yet.” … You just have to feel for the guy! His vocals drive home the point with a very heartfelt delivery.

“Tread Lightly” picks up the pace only slightly from the first two tracks and the song feels like the sun rising in the morning. It’s just a vibe you can’t quite put into words but I can say it’s a good song!

The “American In Me” follows in typical epic McDermott fashion. The song opens with piano and lyrics such as “From shore to shore/ From sea to shining sea/ I am this land maybe this land is me/ Familiarity breads contempt/ My innocence? I wonder where it went/ You must defend what you think is yours,” really make you think. I love that about McDermott’s music… it makes me think and makes me feel. I guess quality music does that sometimes!

“A Kind of Love Song” is up next and it continues in mellow fashion with more acoustic guitar and piano accompaniment. When McDermott sings, “I wish I could write you the kind of love song that a better writer than I could pen, ” I can only wonder what better writer there could be.

“No Words” is the most commercial song off the album so far. It is mellow yet again, but the vocal arrangement is great and I could see this song getting some airplay on adult contemporary radio if it were released as a single. It features some nice female background vocals towards the end to enhance its point.

“All My Love” is another track that has a great vocal. It’s a little different for McDermott and is sung in a higher register at times. It reminds me a little of the great PAT MCGEE BAND--another fine act in the singer/songwriter genre.

“Just A Little Blue” begins with a somber vocal over piano before the drums kick in to pick up the pace ever so slightly. McDermott’s vocals climb with the passion of Springsteen as the song wears on. No doubt, that “Noise From Words” is a very mellow album and “Just A Little Blue” doesn’t change that at all… nor does the next track “Broken.” It’s just more acoustic guitar and piano but the lyrics hold your attention as they always do with McDermott’s work. Lines like “The feelings resounding/ When you’re taking a pounding/ And you tell yourself you don’t care” and “Man, I know for certain/ When God raised the curtain/ I wasn’t prepared for this role,” make you want to reach out to the poor guy. It’s just amazing how he creates such feelings with his words.

“A Long Way From Heaven” has a bit of country feel to it due to its twangy guitar sound. Again, it is a very mellow song but by this point, you know what this album is offering and you just go along for the ride!

“My Father’s Son” is a great song in typical McDermott fashion. It opens simply with piano and is carried by an almost marching drumbeat, it features some very poignant lyrics again and creates a story in which he talks about the parallels between a father and son throughout their lives.

The record is closed out with “I Shall Be Healed,” which is possibly my favorite track on the album. It’s another piano-based song with some great lyrics and an uplifting feel. It’s a really nice way to end the album.

So in conclusion, if you don’t mind getting away from the hard rock and metal sound at times, then this may be a good change of pace for you. Although I may not recommend “Noise From Words” as a first introduction to McDermott’s work, it’s a good addition to his catalog. If I piqued your interest at all and you want to look into McDermott’s music then I would suggest starting with “Gethsemane”, “Last Chance Lounge” or the self-titled record from 1996 as they “rock” a little more then “Noise”, but really, you can’t go wrong with any of his records. Check him out!

Rock On!

Band Lineup:
  • Michael McDermott – Lead Vocals, Piano, Guitars, Bass
  • Bobby MacIntrye - Drums
  • Denny Fongheiser- Drums
  • Larry Beers - Drums
  • Jason Batchko - Drums
  • Jim Wirt - Bass
  • Ian Petty - Bass
  • Doug Petty - Piano
  • Joe Cassidy – Piano, Guitars
  • Dan Petty – Guitars, Mandolin, Additional Vocals
  • John Spiegel – Guitars, Dobro
  • John Pirrucello – Pedal Steel
  • Ryan Hinshaw – Violin
  • Merrit Lear – Violin, Additional Vocals
  • Angelo Santucci - Mandolin
  • Patrick Warren - Chamberlain
  • Jim Wirt – Additional Vocals
  • Michelle Lewis – Additional Vocals


Track Listing:
  1. Mess Of Things
  2. Still Ain’t Over You Yet
  3. Tread Lightly
  4. The American In Me
  5. A Kind Of Love Song
  6. No Words
  7. All My Love
  8. Just A Little Blue
  9. Broken
  10. A Long Way From Heaven
  11. My Fathers Son
  12. I Shall Be Healed


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