This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 9/02
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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Chuck McCabe is one of those singer-songwriters who isn't going to bowl over a listener. But drop that carving knife Mother McCabe, I haven't finished. He's one of those sneaky artists whose musical effect is a cumulative one. He may lack a chart-topping selection, a number-one-with-a-bullet hit (geez, what a ghastly phrase, especially in these times) but his collection of songs gently settles in a listener's head and provides a pleasing, folksy and worthwhile experience.
His best offerings: "A Prayer for the Living," "Do What I Can" and "Minimum Wager."
In the liner notes, the lyrics of "A Prayer for the Living" are adjacent to a picture of a Celtic cross in the Milltown Cemetary, Belfast, Northern Ireland. While the song obviously could have multiple interpretations, this juxtaposition seemingly is connected to what is uniquely called "The Troubles." McCabe opens with:
"There was darkness all around us, and illusion filled our eyesCalculating the everyday difficulties residents, not passers-on, must endure, he concludes:
We were lost in a strange land, and we never even knew
We were laughing, we were only passing through..."
"...Say a prayer for the living...the ones who must go on"Do What I Can" is a philosophical look back at life. McCabe sings of a footloose ramble through the years, torching bridges and such in which "I just did what I wanted, did what I had to, now I just do what I can."
Say a prayer for the living...survivors of the storm
Say a prayer for the living...the night can be so long"
Knowing he threw away opportunities at fortune and romance, he still sings:
"...But if my cup is half-full, still I am thankful for the good things that did come to stay"Minimum Wager" is a litany of the difficult life for those eyeing a spot somewhere higher on the economic ladder. McCabe sings:
And if I had the chance to do it all over, I'd do most of it just the same way"
"...Listen to the politician talk, say they're savin' a seat for you"Barefoot John" recites the travails of a homeless vagabond who would refuse money but accept an offer of a drink, because "I'm a bum, not a beggar."
Minimum wager...what if they're wrong
Minimum wager...who's gonna catch you if you fall?"
A life of celebration and good times concludes in "Down Easy." McCabe finishes with:
"Won't you swing down, chariot, and don't be slowHis title cut, "Bad Gravity Day," is a borderline novelty song. In contrast with a bad tonsorial day, this one combs through the deleterious effects of the natural weight of the world on the body. Banjo and tuba, in consummate marriage, provide appropriately unique backing.
You can let the righteous say 'I told you so'
When it's time to shuffle off to Buffalo
Just wanna leave 'em laughin' when they close this show
Let me go down easy when it's time
Time to go"
McCabe won't wow but he'll certainly entertain. And that's just fine.
McCabe on vocals, guitar, banjo and ukelele, is backed by Myron Dove on bass; Freebo on tuba; Pete Grant on dobro and slide; Bobby Black on Hawaiian steel; Radim Zenkle on mandolin; Scott Bailey on mandolin; Patrick Feehan on piano; Tim Seifert on percussion; Jimmy Dewrance on harp; Jim Kefauver on horn; plus Maria Muldaur, Gene Parsons, Merdian Green; Alice Stuart, Connie Bergquist and John Jacob and The Mighty Avalanche Choir on vocals.
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