fine guitars, fine songs

Mercurys Well (self-produced)
John McCormick

By John Goodin

John McCormick is a familiar face at the annual Kentucky Music Weekend. His performances are eagerly awaited by lovers of finger-style guitar and well-written songs. Mercurys Well, his new recording, is full of both.

The opening "Kodak Ghosts" captures the sound and spirit of the late, brilliant Nick Drake. The bass of Pat Klobas provides the ideal foil for McCormick's orchestral guitar style here and throughout the set. One well-chosen song follows another interrupted only be two virtuoso instrumentals, Booker T. Jones' "Sweet Potato" and "The Fisherman" by Leo Kottke.

McCormick is one of the few Americans to have mastered the British style of guitar playing developed by men like Davey Graham, John Renbourn and Martin Carthy when American folk and blues collided with British traditional music in the '60s. He applies this style not only to songs from England (one here from John Martyn and one traditional) but also to songs from American writers such as Pierce Pettis, Si Khan, Steve Earle and Stan Rogers.

Mercurys Well includes a fine song written by McCormick, "Every Day, Every Night," which leaves the listener hoping that the next disc will include more originals. Songs like "Peace Must Come," "Nothing But a Child," and "What You Do with What You've Got" showcase the singer's knack for delivering positive messages with a warm, understated manner. The music on Mercurys Well is carefully paced with easy shifts in mood and tempo. This makes it perfect for listening late at night or early in the morning.

If you're out at this year's Kentucky Music Weekend, be sure and catch McCormick's set. No doubt plenty of copies of Mercurys Well will be available.