Michael McDermott has been making music in various forms for many years now but it is arguably only in the most recent stretch of his career that his best work has come to light. This could be in part a consequence of almost 20 years spent addicted to drugs and alcohol. This harrowing and painful experience is something many might keep to themselves but McDermott has turned it into a positive and used it to produce some of the most enriching and inspiring rock tunes in recent years.
Using music as a form of catharsis is something done around the world by scores of musicians but each one has their own way of putting their demons to bed. McDermott has been keeping his at bay by producing some of the most critically acclaimed albums in recent times and his latest and greatest is Orphans. Orphans is a truly remarkable album that blends together rock and roll with indie folk and traces of pop. It’s filled with the kind of hooks and riffs that are used in songs like Ne’er Do Well; the kind you find yourself humming weeks late. McDermott has mastered the art of craftsmanship and brings a set of songs that are so carefully layered with playful guitar melodies, raging harmonica melodies and even the heavenly tinkling of gospel organs that each one becomes impossible to extrapolate from the others. His music is far from traditional; it’s a wealth of experiences that have been compressed into 11 short songs to make an album that flows like time itself.
McDermott has been nothing if not honest about his past and his life choices and this stark and almost brutal honesty drives his rich storytelling abilities. Orphans is no different as it brings together a rich collection of songs inspired by life, love, loss, past mistakes and future promises. This is what McDermott was made to do. His honesty is steeped into his earnest, cracked and raw vocals. His voice is gravelled and husky, echoing a performance that seems to sit somewhere in between Bob Dylan and Axel Rose. This is most apparent in songs like Sometimes When it Rains in Memphis, a rich and hardy blues styled tune that feels like a special nod to the likes of Dylan as his harsh and ragged guitar tunes cut through you like a bitter wind.
McDermott is a truly inspiring musician with a pure and earnest nature and an unadulterated talent for bringing his songs to life. Beautiful, complex and painfully honest his songs are driven by a breath-taking voice and a collection of the most toe-tapping, heartening rock music in recent years. This is a beautiful collection of songs that is not to be missed.
Review by Joe Knipe