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'What In The World ...'   

-  Label: 'Pauper Sky Records'
-  Genre: 'Rock' -  Release Date: '12th June 2020'

Our Rating:
It is worth noting that What in the World.... the anthemic opening track and album title does not have a question mark; instead the dots signify a kind of 'to be continued' statement.

As is made obvious from the video to this song, it is Michael McDermott's 'Subterranean Homesick Blues' updated for 21st Century America. While having no quibbles with the issues and politicians he rails against, as a protest song it leaves much to be desired. Merely cataloguing the challenges facing the planet (note - not just America!) is no great challenge and the warning that there are "dark days coming for the USA" is a bit on the late side since the dark days are plainly here already.

Having done his bit for the future of humankind, the other songs, stories and sermons on this album address more personal matters for the Chicago-born singer songwriter. These are rendered with a gravelly Springsteen-esque drawl and cover his checquered past and more serene present.

“I’m sure you know the story,” McDermott says, “record deal early, some modicum of success, and then the long slow descent and destruction. Jail, rehab, fortunate enough to be alive, man.”

As is evident from Until I Found You, his saving grace came through finding the love of a good woman who provided hope and understanding when all seemed lost.

He's now even able to make light of not being the future of rock'n'roll or the new Dylan. “I could have been a contender”, he quotes in Contender but he doesn't aim to replicate the pathos of Marlon Brando's big speech from 'On The Waterfront'. Rather, this upbeat rocker comes with a stirring horn arrangement to emphasis the irony rather than the melancholy.

Memories of screwing up once too often surface frequently but the scars are no longer as raw as they once were. Now, when he goes to bars, he seeks company not oblivion. This gives him material for Blue Eyed Barmaid in which a beautiful bartender turns out to be more than just a pretty face. “I see she’s reading Nietzsche, she’s never heard of Del Amitri” he sings taking a fair degree of poetic license since Nietzsche is actually pronounced 'nee-chuh' so doesn't rhyme with Del Amitri.

In the melodramatic Die With Me, McDermott puffs up his chest to state his intention to rise above small town ways and blinkered thinking, declaring bombastically "tonight I’ll set it all afire”.

If only the wrongs of the world he documents could be righted so easily.

Michael McDermott's website
  author: Martin Raybould

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MCDERMOTT, MICHAEL - What In The World ...