Mike McGuire writes from the heart; a heart worn by the weariness of the world, but inspired by faith in humanity and in a better day. The Kentucky-based singer/songwriter has a folk flair, infused with blues and Appalachian influences that are fully on display on his album Southern Attraction. With comparisons to artists such as Bob Dylan, Sam Bush and John Prine, McGuire is bound to draw attention from the folk crowd. Don’t let the labels fool you; there is something fresh and alive in McGuire’s earthy voice and songwriting presence. McGuire kicks off with the earthy folk and blues of “Tennessee Tom” a vibrant story song about a man with a penchant for children’s songs on the surface, but ultimately about a striving for joy. McGuire’s voice is elemental and pure with a rough hewn edge that is very appealing. “Stay In Your Lane” is about maintaining your course and having faith that things will work out for the best. It’s delivered in a compact little folk/pop arrangement with some tremendous honky-tonk piano in the break. “Lucy” is a melancholy perseveration on a young woman with no roots and no center. The fluid melody here wraps around you like a warm blanket, and McGuire brings the angst of the situation to life in a brilliantly understated arrangement. “Crazy Lone Star Blues” is a stripped down of Texas blues, rooted in red dirt and a doomed love story. The quietly snappy arrangement moves the story along with a quirky life that’s fueled by sadness and abandon. McGuire brings this all to life over three-and-a-half minutes of brilliant songwriting and performance. McGuire’s songwriting takes on a European flair with “Every Saint Has A Past (Every Sinner Has A Future)”. The elements of faith and hope rise from melancholy in a wonderfully complex and layered arrangement that user the color of strings and what sounds like a Hammond B-3 to flesh out the sound. McGuire simplifies for the melancholy reminiscence of “I Still Miss Someone”. Banjo and guitar are the primary instruments here, shaking out the sadness of being alone in accompaniment to McGuire’s plaintive voice. McGuire closes out with “Thunder Over Clarksville”, an edgy, understated rocker that’s more of a moving still life than a story song. McGuire plaints with a broad lyrical brush while sticking to his minimalist musical mien. It’s a great close, slightly jarring in its tonal change but somehow apropos. Mike McGuire touches on universal truths through personal narration on Southern Attraction. The stripped down arrangements keep McGuire in an elemental range, with the focus on adeptly crafted lyrics. Don’t overlook the music, however, there’s a quiet brilliance in McGuire’s creations. Southern Attraction has universal appeal. Artist: Mike McGuire Album: Southern Attraction Review by: Wildy Haskell Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)
Any interesting story is impressive, but it becomes even more impressive when you can tell a compelling story in few words, which is one of the many talents that make Mike McGuire so distinctive. He crafts Americana folk songs, but in that both Kentucky Morning and himself are based in and around the South, there is more of an Appalachian flair. You can see that especially clearly in the opening track, "Kentucky Morning." He shares a pride of Kentucky because of the scenery and most of all because of the musical heritage. The bongos, acoustic guitar, and mandolin which comprise the track offer a calming mood, complementing the lyrics perfectly. The one minute gap between the last chorus and the repetition of the first verse serves as an excellent display of the instrumental talent shared between himself and his backing and provides an exceptional sample of what is still to come throughout the course of this EP. McGuire sings of the human condition, our downfalls, our struggles, the fabrications weaved into our lives, and the beauty that can be found along the way. And in doing so he evokes an impulse of reflection within our own selves, such as with "I Don't Go Around (Feeling Sorry For Myself)," a track where the lyrics recognize that someone is always going to be worse off than you. A fiddle and backing vocals give prominence to the mood being conveyed. Though he remains serious, McGuire shares a hint of humor in "Everybody's Got a Religion." The topic is handled in a non-discriminatory way, acknowledging that everyone has their own way of doing things. He touches ever so slightly on various religions and paths, mentioning everyone from followers of Apple technology and the studies that say the brand triggers a religious reaction in the brains of fans to "Your little blue friend that reads Ayn Rand." Unlike his other tracks, "Texas Fireball" is written in story form. Centering around the life of a baseball player, the song begins with the boy's childhood and goes on to cover everything from his professional career to his stint with steroids and his 80 game suspension. McGuire has a way of portraying his character in a way that will make any listener feel an incredible sympathy and understanding for him by shining an insightful light on what might actually go through the heads of professional baseball players when they choose to take steroids. "No Expectations" is a cover The Rolling Stones' track from 1968. Listening to the song makes you wish McGuire would make use of the slide guitar within other tracks of his because it complements his voice and style so well. He makes this track his own with his voice alone, but further characterizes it by slowing down the tempo slightly and by using only an acoustic guitar, slide guitar, and organ for the recording. The first four tracks all contain only 12 lines a piece, but never do they sound bare and never will you feel cheated due to the lack of lines. In fact, you will come to find McGuire's way of articulating his thoughts and shaping his songs quite haunting. McGuire has a genuine talent; his songwriting abilities would make any artist jealous, and his songs utilize simplicity in the best way possible. He holds tight to the organic nature of his instruments, and he uses this natural acoustic sound to his advantage, allowing his vocals to take center stage. An attempt at creating something entirely new and remarkable has not been made with Kentucky Morning. Rather, an attempt at producing an authentic, sincere album has been turned into a successful venture, and that is where the brilliance of McGuire lies. Artist: Mike McGuire Album: Kentucky Morning EP Review by Alec Cunningham Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
Review..Southern Attraction, Robert Ryttman..Zero Magazine Sweden
I read somewhere that Mike McGuire is a "Spirit Of The South". But the fact is that the man's music works quite well for us too, who have never been to the Southern United States.
When listening to Mike McGuire's, calm, relaxed swing, his hoarse, slightly aged voice and the musicians that help him, it is easy to envision images of the films you have seen from the The South". I can imagine McGuire leaning back in his chair on the porch of a house somewhere in the deep South,playing his guitar and "keeping the rhythm" with a dusty boot heel, listening to the crickets in the silent space between songs.
John Lee Hooker's spirit and stomp is found in "Crazy Lone Star Blues", JJ Cale's presence flows in "Tennessee Tom," while I think of Tom Waits when I hear "Every Saint Has a Past (every sinner Has a Future ) .A Neil Young vibe closes out the CD with" Thunder over Clarksville ". These" kindred spirits" were obviously influences on McGuire and all seem to have affected his music, just in time for the "filming "of Southern Attraction.Of the CD'S seven songs, the artist has written six himself. The seventh is Johnny Cash's "I Still Miss Someone", which many interested in American roots music may not have even heard before.It is performed with reverence in McGuire's laid-back manner,with a beautiful mandolin part by Mike Schroeder..