Jumping The Gun

Fergus McCormick

Independent release, 2005


REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


As anyone who reads these pages regularly knows by now, I am not a Bob Dylan fan. The man is a great writer, yes -- he stands tall as one of the true artists among 20th century lyricists. But I have never, ever been able to gain any real appreciation for either that mumbly rasp of a voice or the distant, elusive persona behind it.

Which probably horrifies Fergus McCormick no end, but c'est la vie.

McCormick, a globe-trotting sometime expatriate now settled back in New York, is a singer-songwriter whose genre of choice is Dylanesque Americana (or roots-rock if you like, or country-blues that occasionally borrows from early rock and roll, if you want to bring it to a fine point). It's not a choice often made these days, but it fits McCormick's evocative, emotionally rich narratives and gentle, lived-in voice like a glove.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

McCormick's subjects are a vivid tapestry of partings, longings, seductions and rejections that render in rich, earthy tones the self-inflicted pains and superlative joys of a true romantic. The opening title track sets the tone right away, a gentle parting shot to a needy lover, sung in weary, hushed, Claptonesque tones over a dreamy electric shuffle. McCormick's keening, wordless cries over the swaying outro create an coda that's both wistful and winning.

The remainder of this fine disc finds McCormick illustrating his flawed characters' longings through one sharply-rendered musical setting after another. He uses country-rock rhythms and warm folk voicings to tell the story of a devastating crush on "My Heart, Hold On To Me," gives a slow country blues a wonderfully restrained intensity on "I Saw Her On Monday," and tosses off a fun piece of classicist rock and roll -- complete with trashcan drums, Jerry Lee Lewis piano and trembly Chris Isaak guitars - on "Four Leaf Clover."

"Clover" also finds McCormick engaging in vocal and musical Knopflerisms that reminded me of moments from both the giddy "Twisting By The Pool" and the weary "Brothers In Arms" (Dire Straights, people, we're talking Dire Straights here). Except, McCormick is a better singer already than Mark Knopfler ever has been, investing his vocals with real intensity and subtlety.

Another highlight is the sweet, loping, almost scatted seduction piece McCormick tosses off with casual precision on "Won't You Take It From Me." Here Andy Burton's Hammond organ takes more of a lead role, with Matt Wilcox's electric guitar embellishing the melody rather than leading it. Equally appealing is the very pretty (and timely) closing ballad "Is It Over?"

I love irony, but the lack of any in these tunes only reinforces the potency of the narratives and McCormick's steadfastly sincere delivery of them. Songs this well-crafted don't need to be embellished with winks, nods or punchlines. Fergus McCormick is the opposite of flashy -- a gentle, sincere storyteller who mixes romanticism with directness to forge his own uniquely appealing style. Jumping The Gun is a worthwhile purchase for anyone who enjoys a good song, and a songwriter who isn't afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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