Six Day Hurricane

Johnny Gallagher

Rockwood Music Hall Recordings, 2016

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


“Oh, I really hope this doesn’t suck” is almost certainly one of the 17 things that ran through my mind as I prepared myself to listen to the debut album from Johnny Gallagher, a.k.a. John Gallagher, Jr., a very good actor fresh off a featured role on The Newsroom. Co-starring in an acclaimed TV show and then making an album having of course often served in the past as a recipe for embarrassment, up to and including public flogging by piling-on mean-girl rock critics.

Here’s the thing: this little s.o.b. is a serious triple threat. Not only is Gallagher a gifted actor and a talented singer (he’s also starred on the stage in the rock musicals Spring Awakening and American Idiot), but damned if he isn’t a one hundred percent legit songwriter, too. The nine-track, entirely self-composed Six Day Hurricane—so named for its lightning-strike recording schedule—is shockingly good, full of smartly-crafted and powerfully performed tunes that stick with you like a hearty meal.

The genre is Americana—mostly upbeat, mostly electric folk-rock with country, retro-rock, and power-pop influences manifesting here and there. While Gallagher acknowledges Springsteen and Dylan as influences (and who wouldn’t), his resonant, keening vocals bring Jackson Browne to mind.

Album opener “Bessie, I Don’t Blame You” rides the tension of an a cappella electric strum for most of its 2:42, with a pair of raucous full-band breakouts serving as exclamation points toward the middle and at the end. The lyric is where the real gold lies, though, a hard look at the pros and cons of the single life: “What they don’t warn you about freedom is that it can be lonely as hell / Sure the world may be my oyster, but I am only a shell.” my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

“Two Fists Full” rumbles through another sharp character sketch on the back of a big-boned rockabilly beat. Batting third, “Sarasota Someone” is a lilting, loping, melodic country-rock tune—think Jackson Browne fronting the Jayhawks, that electric troubadour vibe. “Nobody in NYC gives a toss about me / Nobody can spare any love” says our narrator as he gears up to run away to Sarasota. (“I had a good life once, but it all fell apart… We all get what we deserve… And if you won’t be my accomplice / Then I hope someone in Sarasota will.”) The deceptively bright melody gives a melancholy lyric about trying to outrun loneliness that much more impact.

Next up, the gentler, even more lyrically dense “Dead For A Year” features a strong, steady flow that takes on a little of that sleep-eyed Jonathan Foreman SoCal surfer dude feel in places. Rhyming his way through a haunted, symbol-rich coming-of-age tale, Gallagher casually doles out terrific lines like “Heistin’ all our kisses like they’re works of art.”

Similar in velocity, “Dangerous Strangers” features a thrumming electric propulsion and flailing rhythm section that turn a thoughtful self-examination into a bruising anthem. Gallagher then executes a neat 180 to deliver the solemn acoustic lament “Why Oh Why Am I This Way?” “My touch comes with a curse… By the time we say goodbye, I’ll probably just about have ruined you,” says this introspective prince of self-destruction.

“One Flower Short” veers into rave-up power-pop territory, proving Gallagher can rock out effectively as well. Gallagher’s guitar playing is the key to “Imagine U,” which thrums along, powered by the tension in a steady acoustic earworm of a melody. “I doubt everything about me,” he declares before adding that “I can’t look at anything / Without seeing a million different ways it could be / Including me.” (Artists of the world, I think we’ve found our national anthem…)

Gallagher closes out this concise 34-minute album with the pleasantly surging roots-rocker “Those Wild Woods,” whose opening harmonica solo and nostalgic descriptions of “this boardwalk town” immediately bring the Boss to mind.Gallagher is well-supported throughout this outing by the backing trio of Thad DeBrock (guitar, keys, producer), Conrad Korsch (bass) and Brian Delaney (drums).

Bottom line, when the biggest problem your album has is that it’s too damned short, you’ve definitely done something right. Six Day Hurricane is a thoroughly impressive debut by a gifted singer-songwriter whose biggest challenge may be finding enough time in his acting schedule to give his music the attention it clearly deserves.

Rating: A-

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© 2016 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Rockwood Music Hall Recordings, and is used for informational purposes only.