Saturday, February 23, 2019

Michael McArthur: “Ever Green, Ever Rain” (2019) CD Review

Michael McArthur is a singer and songwriter based in Lakeland, Florida. He has released a few EPs and singles, and his new disc, Ever Green, Ever Rain, is his debut full-length album. This CD demonstrates his talent both lyrically and vocally. The music is somewhere between folk and rock, and also has a lot of soul, particularly in his delivery. This is music that will move you, sometimes possibly to tears, sometimes to joy. The music is certain to have some effect on you, and it will also surprise you at times. And in these dark days when a significant portion of the population has unmasked itself, revealing its ugly and twisted racist visage, we need music that can hold us together and speak to the most human element within ourselves. Maybe that part of us can rise to the surface, and this nation can soon begin to heal and find itself again. I firmly believe that good music can help us achieve this. Listening to this album leaves me little doubt.

The album opens with “Earth And Space,” a gorgeous and powerful instrumental track, like rising over a beautiful, exciting land without fear. And away we go. It leads directly into the second track, “We Live & We Die,” and immediately there is a different sound, a different vibe, the prominent instrument being acoustic guitar. Michael McArthur’s voice has an intimate and slightly haunted quality. “I can hear the church bells singing from our house/Might as well be a fire alarm/There’s nothing in this life will save us now.” This song builds into something beautiful and potent. It’s an excellent track, one of my personal favorites. “Prisoner” has more of a pop and straight rock sound, which comes as something of a surprise after the first few tracks.

That’s followed by “Elaine,” which begins with a sweet, delicate sound on acoustic guitar. This song has an intimate feel, and then Michael’s vocals soon rise up to beautiful heights, like a prayer sent to a land beyond what we can grasp. “Maybe love is all I need/I’ve been low, below my knees/Close my eyes, so I can see/I’ve grown tired of the same old thing.” I love this sad, gorgeous song. Check out these wonderful lyrics: “You’re not your body/You’re not your skin/Beauty ain’t the bones/You’ve been hidden in/So where do we go, love/When the body dies?/And what do you see now/When you close your eyes?” And then the lines from “Simple Kindness” that stand out are “Learned exactly who I didn’t want to be/From someone I barely know” and “You call it love, I call it fear.”

“I’ve Been Wrong” is another engaging track, this one featuring some nice, prominent percussion. Michael McArthur has a way of pulling you in, then taking you to some incredible peaks as well as some sorrowful valleys. “But you use both lips/To stop me from breathing.” The repetition of the song’s title line, “I’ve been wrong,” at the end is striking and moving. The opening lines of “Rest’s Unknown” grab me immediately: “No, I wasn’t ready/For a life so heavy/For my fears were taught/And I try to let them go.” This one begins on acoustic guitar, then grows into something beautiful and ethereal. “I remember a place/Where innocence fades/Where we learned to run.” And these lines kind of destroy me: “I hope that my body goes/Before my mind does, remember me as I was/Seems like the days/Are getting harder to take.” Yes, this is another of the album’s strongest tracks.

Then a cool, somewhat funky bass line gets “Save Me From The Fire” going, taking us in a different direction. “See, a man is just a man without someone to know/And there ain’t no use for these hands without someone to hold.”  The clapping section comes as a surprise. That’s followed by “A Conversation Before Bed,” a song that rings so very true. Also, I love its title, which sort of sets its tone before the track even starts. The way he delivers the opening lines, “I’m sorry that I raised my voice/Said a whole lot more about me than you,” reminds me a bit of Martin Sexton. This is an emotionally engaging, beautiful song. The album then concludes with its title track, “Ever Green, Ever Rain,” which features some memorable lines like “We’re not alone/But we’re on our own” and “Life is a movie/With no director.”

CD Track List
  1. Earth And Space
  2. We Live & We Die
  3. Wild In The Blood
  4. Prisoner
  5. Elaine
  6. Simple Kindness
  7. I’ve Been Wrong
  8. Warmer Months
  9. Rest’s Unknown
  10. Save Me From The Fire
  11. A Conversation Before Bed
  12. Ever Green, Ever Rain
Ever Green, Ever Rain was released on January 25, 2019 on Dark River Records. It is available on both CD and vinyl.

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