Megan McCormick: Honest Words

RIYL: Sheryl Crow, Bonnie Raitt, Susan Tedeschi

Megan McCormick’s debut album Honest Words is a blend of guitar-driven, bluesy rock and a dreamy Lilith Fair vibe.  Her voice falls in a pleasant, Sheryl Crow range, but with less cigarette smoke grit. Meanwhile, her guitar playing has the passion and technical prowess that should call the attention of people who dig the likes of Susan Tedeschi and Jimmie Vaughan.

The album kicks off with “Shiver,” a funky groove set against a blues riff that finds the singer suffering from the fever of a new love – simultaneously exciting and scary. This song is quickly followed by “Things Change,” a poppy song that begins with a traditional Texas blues arrangement before quickly becoming a peppy pop song. It has a chorus that would make Bonnie Raitt proud.  “Do Right” is nice enough, but a tad too generic with lyrics like “sold my soul to rock ‘n roll” and what not. “Wreck” is poignant, full of regret and heartbreak; “Oh My Love” is a shuffling, acoustic country tinged ballad and “Driveway” is slow and mournful; a tale told from the perspective of a woman dying at the wheel of her crashed car.

There are plenty of wonderful sounds on Honest Words: beautifully sung vocals, exemplary guitar playing and lyrics that are, for the most part, cliché-free. Unfortunately the album is a little too sleepy. For an artist who seems so grounded in the blues, a few more up-tempo rockers would have been welcome. After a string of slow songs, “Addiction,” a crunchy rock song jumps in as a much-needed wake up call. But then things slow right back down again. Bummer.

Nevertheless, McCormick is a nice discovery when so many female artists are either extremely pop or acoustic singer songwriters. For her next effort, here’s hoping she cuts back on the ballads and kicks it up a notch or two. (Ryko 2010)

Megan McCormick’s MySpace page
Click to buy Honest Words from Amazon


Ruth Gerson: This Can’t Be My Life

RIYL: Aimee Mann, Heather Nova, Fiona Apple

As if there needed to be proof out there that trying times can lead to the most inspired music, singer/songwriter Ruth Gerson hammers that point home again on her latest, This Can’t Be My Life. The album was recorded and ready for release in 2007, but a divorce and sudden single-momhood put the project on the shelf for a few years. Lucky for us, Gerson finally did release it, and the painful time period she endured shines through loud and clear on This Can’t Be My Life, her first full-length effort since 1998. Gerson writes music with heart, and delivers it with equal parts bluesy brood and rocking growl. It’s also melodic enough to be accessible to the masses, but still unique and cool enough to be considered alternative. Right from the title track, a piano anthem that sets the tone for the rest of the set, Gerson tells her story with simple yet powerful lyrics: “I made two lefts / I shoulda gone right / If I made one more left, it would have been right / It can’t be, can’t be my life.” This and the singsong “Bulletproof” have a falsetto melodic bent a la Aimee Mann, while “Fresh Air” and “Someday Soon” have a dark yet powerful pull akin to Fiona Apple. Add the jazzy, rainy day feel of “Hazel” and the guitar-picking “Take It Slow,” which will remind you of a female Nick Drake, and you’ve got a very complete, damn good album here. Whether Ruth Gerson breaks out big or remains on a smaller radar plane doesn’t matter. What matters is that she’s shared her stories with us, and is doing what she does best – making great music. (Wrong Records 2009)

Ruth Gerson website