This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 11/00
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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Say your prayers for writers. Say an extra set of prayers for songwriters. Pull out all stops and maybe light a few candles for singer-songwriters. These individuals who connect words to produce moving and thought provoking images, and especially those who can set these words to music, deserve our utmost respect, recognition and care. If heaven won't help this endangered species, we must.
Terry MacNamara is such a person. Yet another of the 'great unwashed' of folk performers, MacNamara is a gifted yet anonymous writer and performer out of the Chicago area who produces intriguing material. His talent also extends to placing his lyrical collections into musical settings that enhance the power and effect of his words. Interestingly enough, while his vocal range is somewhat limited, it works with his material--the listener has to pay attention and focus, thus getting inexorably drawn into MacNamara's world.
His title song, "Sleeping At A Dead Run," and "Not A Thru Street" both have moments in common with Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues" but contain enough different rhythms and elements to easily stand apart on their own. The second verse provides a good sense of the lyrical style of "Sleeping At A Dead Run":
"...There's a man in a turban with a great long beardThe opening verse is a prime example of "Not A Thru Street":
Tries to take a pebble from a barefoot shoe
A hearse drives by. It's got no mourners
And a guardian angel shakes a box at you
A smell like death comes up from the sidewalk
Limousine pauses, thirty feet long
Man with a guitar mumbles his half-talk
Tryin' to make a nickel as he plays his song..."
"...Over at the pillory, talkin' to the PhariseesTaking the Steinbeck story a bit further, "Grapes Of Wrath," displays a larger, modern viewpoint. MacNamara, backed by guitar, harmonica, mandolin and violin, sings:
Starin' at a pink knee. Gonna buy a fantasy
Duck out strategy. Callin' in sick leave
Don't give me that grief. Blame it on the company
On a rusty post along the road it says
NOT A THRU STREET, but I think I'll go..."
"...Starvin' in an Eden
Where the gods have put a snake on every tree
Where yesterday's survival is tomorrow's labor
For the company
Witness to the murder of a voice
That called for common human decency
Tom must choose between his family
And a man he never meant to be
Now, it is just the storyHe closes with his most powerful lines:
Of a people livin' in a different time?
Are we gathered here to celebrate
The victory over greed and crime?
Does our sense of common human decency
Extend beyond our border line?"
"Are drinkin' from the grapes of wrath"There Is You" is an emotional plea underlying the power of partnership. MacNamara begins with:
And thinkin' all the time it's wine?"
"When I did not feel complete on some long and empty streetReaching out, he concludes:
And all the echoes of my feet say there is no one to meet
And the faces that I find look at me like they've gone blind
And I search for any sign that the crushing weight of time
Will not press down on my mind 'til I surrender..."
"...But before you turn away
There is something you could say
And if you did I know it would astound you
Say, 'There is you, There is you'The subtle "Bach To Bethlehem" is one that can easily be pictured in the Springsteen repertoire. Singing about his steel mill worker daddy, MacNamara contrasts the rough-hewn daily duties of a mill worker with that of his father returning home and turning on the radio:
And when you open up your eyes you will see me standing by
It's true. It is true.
You will see me. There I'll be
Trying to understand your need
And if you do, if you do
If you can put your pain away, and listen I will say
'There is you. There is you.'
And together we will find more than we will leave behind
It is true. It is true.
We may be different in our way
But we'll make it if we say, 'There is you...'"
"...And there was Bach in BethlehemHe continues with:
Bach in Bethlehem
I saw the spirit born in his eyes
Born again to Bach in Bethlehem..."
"...Eight a.m. in the church on Sunday morningOther memorable tunes include "Pleasantville," "The Forty Six Year Man," "Swannanoa Lullaby," "Independence Day," "Without Her" and "Heaven and Hell."
With the choir he would bow his head
And with the other workin' men from the sheet mill
Take his place on the old wooden bench
While the young ones would rustle through their music
I knew the steel men would never touch a thing
Like old soldiers who have come through a battle
From blessed silence they'd begin to sing
And there was Bach to Bethlehem..."
Go beyond the prayers and candles and give this guy a try. You may initially reach out due to kindness or curiosity, but you'll keep on reaching because of his talent.
MacNamara on lead vocals, guitar and harmonica is backed by Kevin O'Donnell on drums and congas; Colin Bunn on electric guitar; Mark Edelstein on bass; Jill Kaeding on cello; Rich Halajian on violin; Rick Veras on mandolin; William Sims on sax; Rob Anderlich on dobro; John Rice on dobro; Pat Broaders on uillean pipes; Victor Sanders on electric guitar and bass and backup vocals by Sue Demel, Deb Lader, Jenny Bienemann and Nancy Walker.
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