Album Review: True Native by Tony McLoughlin

Album Review: True Native by Tony McLoughlin

Hot damn, Blood On Blood will wake you from any slumber or funk. No quarter is given as we hear about “blood on blood in the darkest night.” It’s a tale of outlaws in the Badlands. There is Springsteenian storytelling and delivery, and much for fans of Dire Straits in the deep voice and resolute pacing. 

A rolling stone, a loving kind, an outlaw, and a child of God are just some of the descriptors given. The one that’s worthy of the title is Flying Bird. The key traits embodied are freedom, song and observation. 

The Colour Of Spring leaves the desert. It’s jaunty and loved up. While the protagonist still walks the night, love light guides him home. 

The title track True Native has a Springsteen sound vocally, rattling and shuffling instrumentation, and a stroll through American lands and history. It skirts anachronistic language and idealism though. 

Photo by Christine Simpson

Sharp electric guitars and a honky-tonk tempo carry a traditional blues rock number, but it’s still set in the Western Plains. We get some sense of the wanderer’s motivation: “I’m only running from you.” While it showcases some gnarly solos, the storytelling of the previous songs make us eager for some of the backstory. Instead we get a “that’s how it is/that’s how it goes” brush off. 

Treeline marries latter-day Americana-Springsteen vocals with a whimsical look at nature. 

Photo by Deone Jahnke

We careen from pedal steel to moody blues rock and a vocoder effect. The declaration “zero” comes in full force but echoed. It’s the apogee of “a lonely cry and a lonely tear I could not hide.” The refrain becomes Below Zero as things get progressively worse for the protagonist.

Next up is a gentle lounge shuffle cover of Butch Hancock’s If You Were A Bluebird which offers intriguing, atypical metaphors. Try “if you were a train stop, the conductor would sing low,” for example. 

Mercury finishes the short album with one final low register song over a simple fingerpicked progression accented with harmonica. 

This short record is a curious mix of brooding and jaunty. McLoughlin’s seventh album was produced by renowned veteran guitarist Philip Donnelly (John Prine, Everly Brothers, Nanci Griffiths, Donovan, Townes Van Zandt).

True Native is out now and available through Tony McLoughlin’s website. 

Album Review: Orphans by Michael McDermott

“Michael McDermott is one of the best songwriters in the world and possibly the greatest undiscovered rock ‘n’ roll talent of the last 20 years.”

Stephen King

We start with a strong Gin Blossoms style pop rock sound. The secrets of a Tell Tale Heart have a Springsteen vibe too: “it’s like the weight of the world is a promise.”

The Last Thing I Ever Do keeps up the promise of heartland rock sounds but with a Shakespeare-tinged heartbreak narrative. The story shifts to the third person as Katy enters stage left and shares her woes: “she says these men are all the same/they play with love like a parlour game/and I’m a moth drawn to the flame/and it’s gone within a minute.” Both the narrator and Katy are determined to persevere and overcome. He yearns for a lost love but recognises the scars he’s been left with.

The references to iconic figures continue – Michaelangelo (artist not Turtle) and ::checks notes:: Miss Browning, presumably his old Maths teacher. It’s about counting his blessings; as everything else in his life disintegrates, the Ne’er Do Well still has love.

The harmonica is cracked out as a weary traveler speaks up. Again, distant love is the only light: “It’s a minefield of darkened forces and unfamiliar beds that sets me off on uncharted courses/it’s a long way from home.”

Sometimes It Rains in Memphis really puts the breaks on Bryan Adams style, musing about a drunken, tempestuous relationship that’s now over: “We were just to dumb to know these were the best days of our lives…we didn’t know how far wed’d fall.”

Giving Up The Ghost is more upbeat with piano and rich E Street bombast, but still haunted by the past: “sometimes betrayal is the form of a kiss/and fear is a jail when you’re feeling like this/fear is a jail when you’re feeling like this/ There’s a time to retreat, a time to advance So give me one last chance.”

Black Tree, Blue Sky is vocally based and that’s just as well as there’s quite a story to tell: “I’ve been so out of my mind that I woke up in different states/Somehow checked into cheap motels with negotiated rates/Sometimes there was blood/broken glass, broken mirrors.”

Photo Credit: Tony Piccirillo

Another Springsteenian tale lightens the atmosphere: “Come on baby/will you ride with me downtown?/let’s get crazy/drink our troubles down/you always save me.”

A Full Moon Goodbye ramps up the pathos: “Your heart was a stone, I wasn’t meant to keep Your love is a prayer, that I will never repeat.” Again, blood, alcohol and regret litter the memories that haunt the present.

The protagonist is drawn back to Richmond when he finds out the brother that used to buy him beer has sold the family’s summer home. He bathes in memories of youthful reverie and his father who recalled his Southern roots after moonshine. Thoughts turn to an old love and their shared summers, all set to a compelling Southern rock sound.

Next, McDermott takes us West to Santa Monica as we hear about Los Angeles A Long Time Ago in mounrnful vignettes like Polly’s: “You know, this time tomorrow I’ll be married to a guy from a fly over State.” The past tense hints that something went wrong, and it’s sadly common for a musician: “We got so tired of hanging around just waiting on our big break, which never came.”

“I lived in L.A. for a while, wasn’t the best time of my life. I slept in bushes and my drug dealer lived in a tree, made a mess of things”

Michael McDermott

What If Today Were My Last is a final reflective piece on an album that is haunted by a past of lost loves, old homes and no homes. Now sober and a family man, McDermott is no longer lost, but his orphaned songs stand as testament to a life in transition.