This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 12/01
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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With his pleasing, inviting voice and grassroots folk song style, Joe McKay is reminiscent of your musical Uncle Fred providing a good time at family functions with his singing and playing. But keep in mind this is your talented Uncle Fred.
McKay doesn't bowl over listeners with breathtaking metaphor or puzzling obliqueness--his songwriting style is fairly straightforward. However, he possesses a knack for keenly and sincerely bringing to life people, places and times from throughout his life. In this release, we get to know some of the history and characters from a part of New Jersey heretofore unknown to most non-Garden Staters, the farming area around Secaucus.
The title cut, "Backroad Joe," brings to mind Tennessee Ernie Ford's hit "16 Tons." It uncannily depicts the cycle of life of a youth raised on a New Jersey pig farm. The travails of three farm laborers, applicable to many in society's lower strata, are seen through the eyes of a child in "Chicken, Shorty and Cockeyed Joe."
The simple arc of McKay's grandfather's life in the tribute song "Dzia Dziu," presents a commonplace slice of life from that time. "Saddled And Bridled" melds a poem about a young man who joined Davy Crockett at The Alamo with a second story of a young recruit from Secaucus who perished during World War II.
McKay also offers elements of his personal wisdom with "Two Great Rivers" and "Furnace Of Humility." The most moving cut, "Furnace Of Humility," is based on Biblical scripture. McKay, aided by elegant piano backing, sings throughout of the insight available through humility and concludes:
"...For I have joined the elders nowMcKay also includes an excellent rendition of John Stewart's "Dreamers On The Rise" and dedicates the Stewart-sounding "Songs From The Heart," to the ex-Kingston Trio member.
and I must take my stand
in the furnace of humility
I will trust His mighty hand..."
You say you don't have an Uncle Fred? Adopt Joe McKay.
McKay, on vocals, guitar and banjo, is assisted by Jim Allen on guitar, mandolin, piano, accordion and harmonica; Terence Martin on keyboards, accordion, harmonica and percussion; Gordon Roehrer on bass, vocals and percussion; and Dan Bonis on banjo.
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