Morgan Mecaskey. Righteous Kind.
Self-produced, 2012. Morgan Mecaskey: http://www.morganmecaskey.com/
While this is the debut EP of this singer-songwriter and instrumentalist, it’s hardly her first musicalexperience. She was previously the front voice for the indie-folk band Tinamou, along with violinist Cameron Schenk, who appears here as well. She and Schenk apparently have played together a long time in the Cleveland area, but for this album they are joined by a batch of other musicians for a full band sound.
The six songs here are evidence of a mature voice and an experienced songwriter. Mecaskey has a unique style that made me sit up and take notice right away. She mixes an indie-rock sound with folk stylings and arrangements that suggest classical training. This is several cuts above the average self-produced EP one might expect in terms of quality. Instrumentation and arrangements are sophisticated, harmonies are tight, and every song has a different atmosphere. An opening short instrumental piece is followed by “Two Men,” a song with enough hooks to get radio airplay, if it weren’t clocking at five minutes. “First Love” is a slow ballad, beginning softly, and building in dynamics as sort of a chamber piece. There’s a great electric guitar solo, and hey, I hear Beatles harmonies!
The title track begins with what may be dolphin sounds, along with some warming up winds and brass that lead to another ballad, beautifully sung and played, with a similar structure to the previous tune, in building to an louder instrumental crescendo, then trailing off to a denouement. “Separate” is softer in tone than “Two Men” but also has pop hooks that get into the brain. The last track is mostly Mecaskey herself, and tends to slow down to a contemplative pace.
Mecaskey’s vision is eclectic, but fully formed, in the same way that Tori Amos and some other singer-songwriters have appeared. I guess the biggest thing working against a commercial breakthrough is the fact that her songs tend to be on the long side, not a great thing for short attention-span radio. But there are other ways to become known, and she should find her own path.
Personnel: Morgan Mecaskey (vocals, guitars, rhodes, claps, toy piano), Cameron Schenk (violin), Matt DeRubertis (upright and electric bass), Anthony Foti (drums), Nina DeRubertis (backing vocals), Lauren Stonestreet (backing vocals), Paul Ferguson (trombone), Dave Kasper (soprano & tenor saxophones, flute).
Tracks: Jacques Cousteau, Two Men, First Love, Righteous Kind, Separate, Come the Morrow.
(Disclaimer: The reviewer knows Paul Ferguson, the trombonist. He in no way influenced my opinion of the music reviewed here. Frankly, I haven’t seen him for months.)
The Wizard of Wans