Last Chance Lounge

Michael McDermott

Koch Records, 2000

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


It's getting harder and harder to be a singer-songwriter in the present music scene.

It wasn't terribly long ago that you had people such as Marc Cohn and David Wilcox threatening to bring back the days of such story-telling artists like Jim Croce, Harry Chapin and Bob Dylan. But as quickly as their stars rose, they fell from the sky, only people had already turned their backs on the ensuing light show.

Michael McDermott knows this all too well. He's probably best-known for his hit "A Wall I Must Climb" from a few years ago, but since then has remained anonymous to both radio and consumers. He's kept hammering away at his craft all this time, hoping to get another chance to show people what they're missing out on, but his musical pleas have fallen on deaf ears.

His latest album, Last Chance Lounge, might have a title which describes McDermott's view of the music business. If it is, then he's possibly saved his best material for this effort. Now, one only has to wait and see if anyone is willing to sit down, have a beer and listen to the stories that McDermott has to tell.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Like most singer-songwriters, McDermott's style runs from harder-edged pop to more laid-back ballading. For this reason alone, it's sometimes hard to get completely into the album, and it takes more of a concentrated effort to pay attention to what McDermott has to say. I'm hesitant to put the blame on McDermott for this, simply because this is a curse that many other singer-songwriters have had to face over the years.

Yet there is plenty to get excited about on Last Chance Lounge. From the start, tracks like "Broken Down Fence" and "Getting Off The Dime" let the listener know that they could well be in for a real treat. And, more often than not, McDermott delivers on that promise. Tracks such as "Annie And The Aztec Cross," "Bourbon Blue" and "20 Miles South Of Nowhere" all carry the emotional payload to their destination successfully.

Even on the more gentle numbers like "Murder On Her Lips," McDermott is able to grab the listener by the heartstrings and take them in a direction they weren't prepared for. These tracks take a little more effort on the part of the listener, but the effort proves to be worthy in the end.

It is rare that McDermott fires a blank on Last Chance Lounge, and even there, the songs are by no means failures. Tracks such as "Spark" and "Aces & Eights" don't pack quite the punch as other tracks do, but on any other album, they'd stand out. When they're surrounded by such good tracks, though, they pale.

Even in all the tales of alienation and hopelessness, McDermott sets himself apart in that he holds out the slim hope that things are due to get better, and that personal salvation has to be just around the corner. Whether McDermott's characters ever get to that promised land is left up to each individual listener to decide.

Last Chance Lounge is the kind of album that, if there were justice in this world, would make McDermott a celebrity. It would generate hit single after hit single and mark the renaissance of the age of the singer-songwriter. Even if this does not happen, McDermott should not hang his head, for he has created a thing of beauty.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2000 Christopher Thelen 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 Koch Records, and is used for informational purposes only.