Two-Fer From a Frequent Louisville Guest

Live at the Freight (Phantom Records)
The Farthest Field (Phantom Records)
John McCormick

By Bob Mitchell

Californian John McCormick has had a long-running love affair with Louisville. Many readers of this page will associate his name with the annual Kentucky Music Weekend. A month ago, McCormick was back in town for a concert at The Rud and a guest appearance at Brendan's with My Darling Asleep (the city's hottest new Celtic band).

I caught up with McCormick at Brendan's Celtic Sunday night. The place was packed and conversations flourished while good food and spirits flowed freely. It was a happy place to be. After an exciting opening set from MDA, McCormick, with guitar in hand, took center stage for an enjoyable 30-minute solo set. Although I have not heard him in several years, his vocals remain rich, strong and pure. His deep baritone caressed each song with honest sensitivity and his incredible finger-style guitar provided the perfect underpinning. A gentle program represented "Acoustic Americana" at its best. In 1998, my review of Between Our Hearts said, in part, "These songs establish McCormick as the official troubadour for the 21st century." Listening to him in person and later on two of his latest CDs, be it known to all: He retains the title.

Live at the Freight: Live music is one of life's greatest pleasures and this recording captures the intimacy of an up-close-and-personal concert in a small venue (not unlike Brendan's). The project is well-engineered, capturing the depth and warmth of McCormick's vocals as well as the full, deep sounds that can only be generated by an acoustic guitar. Musical highlights include "Spencer and The Rover," "Kodak Ghosts," and "Western Island." Guesting on this release is Michael Stradler, harmony vocals, guitar and bouzouki. His contribution on "Peace Must Come," is especially commendable.

The Farthest Field: is also a satisfying album that showcases McCormick's heartfelt vocals and excellent guitar work. I especially enjoyed his treatment of "King of California," "The Wind and Rain," and an energetic instrumental called "Railroad Blues."

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