This is a collection of compositions that didn’t make it onto Michael McDermott’s previous albums although he insists “This isn’t an outtake album. The Chicago-born artist explains that “these songs were too loud in my heart, they kept waking me at night”.
What they do reflect are his persistent feelings of displacement and loneliness while on the road as well as the pain deriving from the recent loss of both parents: “Being away from my own family left me feeling quite the ‘little boy lost’…orphaned”, he says.
After finding success in 1991 while in his early 20s, McDermott’s career has had its fair share of ups and downs. It’s the low points that most of these twelve songs dwell upon albeit glossed over with a brash Springsteen-esque delivery. Such is the macho swagger that as well as echoes of early Tom Waits (who released his own bastard orphans collection), the spirit of Jon Bon Jovi is never far away.
McDermott has now escaped from an addictive, self-destructive cycle. He’s been clean for four years now but songs like The Last Thing I Ever Do and Black Tree Blue Sky show while the hard times in the past are gone they are not forgotten.
The singer reveals himself to be no stranger to cheap hotels and hard living yet it’s evident that a strong artistic streak helped keep him afloat. He talks of Michelangelo (Ne’er Do Well), quotes Shakespeare (“parting is such sweet sorrow”) and, in the opening song, finds connections in Edgar Allen Poe’s gothic short story, Tell Tale Heart.
Perhaps not surprisingly, not all the songs work. The driving beat of The Wrong Side Of Town, for instance, borrows so heavily from Born To Run that it’s easy to understand why it was initially discarded.
However, a confessional song like Los Angeles Lifetime Ago stands as a sobering reminder of a grim period from the past and for the most part, listeners have good reason be thankful that these ‘orphan’ tunes now have a home.
Michael McDermott’s website