KEEGAN MCINROE - UNCOUTH PILGRIMS
2016 - Self released
There is little on this new recording by Keegan Mcinroe that is overtly country, folk or blues and yet everything is rooted in one or the other, sometimes all three, on this generous helping of quite original 'roots music.' Don't get me wrong; if there is a genre this excellent album leans more towards it is certainly country but more in terms of arrangements. The lyrics whilst beautifully thought out could with a different arrangement cross over into a number of genres. I know this applies to many songs but it just struck me on this album in particular, perhaps because of the often stylistic ambivalence that adds to the strong thread of originality that binds all fourteen songs together on this, his fourth solo album.
Keegans vocals have both a warmth and a rawness that are incredibly versatile despite not having a huge range but he is such a good manipulator that he is able to sing virtually every type of song within the roots music genre, a wide field that he pretty much covers on this album. Of the fourteen excellent songs twelve were written solely by Keegan, one was a co-write with Lindsay Hightower and Flower Song for Barefoot Dancers was written by Michele Bertoldi. He is helped out in the studio by some of Texas' finest musicians; too many to name here, although the instrumentation is never overdone, with the number of musicians necessary to the variety of styles.
Album opener Country Music Outlaws gets things going with acoustic guitar and a vocal that has a laid back feel, exacerbated by the mellow harmonica tones with lovely steel guitar added to the solid bass and percussion. It is a song that lulls the listener into thinking this could well be a 'classic country and western' album but don't be fooled. Country is never far away but there is very much more 'colour' on this recording. Lumberjack Blues is a song that has a bluesy rock feel that also includes old rock 'n' roll elements with harmonica, propulsive piano, slide guitar and the usual excellent percussion and bass, with Keegans vocal exhibiting a suitable rawness. It's back to the country with weeping steel guitar on Begona although not too many country songs mention the Moselle Valley as this one does. It is a really beautiful song as well with the gorgeous female harmonies complementing Keegans soft vocal. Woody and Ruth is a really strong 'wordy' folk story song about life on the road, accompanied by just acoustic guitar and latterly bass, percussion and harmonica as the tale gradually builds both tension and atmosphere enhanced by the occasional gorgeous female harmonies. There are gorgeous chiming guitars on Resolutions, another song that has a mellow feel with Keegans warm vocal at its best, then the song completely changes tack in both tempo and atmosphere, almost having a New Orleans feel with brass and barrel house piano before going back to somewhere nearer its original form. It is a beautifully written and arranged song, as well as being an excellent performance, that was co-written with Lindsay Hightower. Final mention goes to I Got Trouble an excellent soulful bluesy mid tempo rocker that has a driving, chunky guitar sound and soulful female harmonies allied to a lovely catchy melodicism. Keegans vocal has a straining rawness that perfectly suits this excellent song.
There is much in the musical makeup of this recording that has been done before, after all there are only so many notes available, but thanks to Keegan's instinctive take on a number of genres everything is fresh and has a feeling of originality as well as having a lovely flow despite the stylistic variety. In a nutshell; everything that is needed for a successful musical career and a very successful album.