Thursday, June 24, 2004

Scream and Whisper

I drove to Stow yesterday evening to take Brandi out to dinner after getting her new job. That meant a grand total of four hours spent in my car: two for the drive over there last night, and two more as I came back to work this morning. I had plenty of time to give some attention to Scream and Whisper, the new Edwin McCain CD I mentioned yesterday.

If all you've heard of Edwin is "I'll Be" (from Misguided Roses) and "I Could Not Ask For More" (from Messenger), be prepared to be surprised. For the most part, his music is so much more than the handful of his songs that are played on the radio. Those are just generic love songs; most Edwin tunes are good, solid rock and roll. This new CD is no exception, and it's awesome.

Here's the track listing:

1. Coming Down
2. Shooting Stars
3. Throw It All Away
4. Say Anything
5. Turning Around
6. Couldn't Love You More
7. Good Enough
8. Farewell to Tinkerbell
9. How Can You Say That To Me
10. Day Will Never Come
11. Save the Rain
12. White Crosses
13. Wild at Heart
14. Maggie May

The disc begins and ends on a high note. "Coming Down" is an upbeat song about returning to a familiar place after a long journey, and it probably refers to Edwin's struggles with his record company and his return to creative control. "Maggie May" is a cover of a Rod Stewart tune. I'm not all that familiar with the original, but I can't imagine Stewart himself doing it better. The whole band rocks out on this one.

In between, the songs run the gamut of topics and emotions. Edwin often does topical songs, and there are a couple of this album. "Good Enough" tells of performers who are welcome at venues while they're doing their act but sent on their way afterwards due to the color of their skin (I'm good enough to play / But not good enough to stay). "White Crosses" is about the pain of migrant workers. I think it says a lot about Edwin, both creatively and as a person, that he can write and perform these songs through the eyes of people that belong to sociological groups that he does not.

A theme on this disc that I personally find fascinating is that of growing up and leaving behind youthful joys. Edwin touches on this briefly in "Couldn't Love You More," and explores it head-on in "Farewell to Tinkerbell" and "Wild at Heart." Those songs make an interesting contrast. "Farewell to Tinkerbell" is a cheerful song that realizes that leaving things behind isn't the end of the world, whereas "Wild at Heart" is a melancholy reflection on what will be missed.

Musically, this album is very enjoyable. Edwin has generally been the band's chief songwriter, and he's very good at it. For several songs on this album he collaborated with other writers, and a couple were written by Pete Riley, a guitarist in the band who was a solo artist before joining up with Edwin. The results are awesome. The lyrics convey the thoughts and emotions of the song, and they blend together perfectly with the melodies. Edwin is a great singer, and when he really belts it out, you can feel it right along with him. He's surrounded by excellent musicians. You really have to see them play in person to appreciate how good they are and what good chemistry they have.

The only thing I can really add is that I would have liked to hear Pete sing more. I really like the solo album he put out, and I think hearing his voice would have been awesome. He provides awesome harmony on choruses, and his voice shines through from time to time, but I think it would have been cool for him to get a verse or two all to himself.

My favorite song from this CD so far is "Shooting Stars," which I can already sing along to. It's a writing collaboration between Edwin, Pete, and Angie Aparo, who is another great singer/songwriter. If I had to choose beyond that, I don't know if I could do it. All of the songs are great.

Perhaps the thing I appreciate most about Edwin's music is that it inspires the artist in me. I want to write the stories his songs tell me. The best example is the song "Sign on the Door" from his Messenger album, but there are no shortage of songs like that on this disc. I already mentioned the theme of growing up, which is something I explore occasionally in my own fiction. Another is that of miscommunication in relationships, which comes up in "Say Anything." Songs like this make me want to sit down and write the perfect story, and that makes me respect the hell out of Edwin both as a songwriter and as a musician.

If you like good rock music and maybe something a little different from anything on the radio these days, give this album a listen. Better yet, check out a concert (tour dates on the official website). You can thank me later.

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