This is one of the best albums of the year. Doug MacLeod is John Fogerty with a mean slide, singing acoustic blues originals that sound like they’ve been around forever. Equal parts playful, vengeful, and forlorn, MacLeod is a fully developed songwriter in his prime.
MacLeod brags about the old second-hand Fender amp he uses, and when recorded live, direct to two track Sony Direct Stream Digital System, the result of this unusual combination is warm, natural, perfection. A little harmonica and mandolin pop up here and there, but the majority of songs feature MacLeod’s voice and guitar backed by simple bass and percussion.
The songs mix traditional blues themes with contemporary images. The heavy-handed politics of the title track seem a little out of place, but MacLeod sings with such honesty that the message is conveyed without annoyance. “Splain it to Me” and “Rise Up” are up-tempo, while “Unlonely” and the exquisite “Time for a Change” reach for the heart and find their mark.
The sweet country of “Norfolk County Line” features a duet with Janiva Magness. This song owes immeasurable debt to Dylan’s “Girl From the North Country,” specifically the version he sings with Johnny Cash on Nashville Skyline. They are both remarkable songs and MacLeod’s decision to include it with this collection of blues songs is inspired and rewarding for the listener.
The liner notes offer a brief anecdote/explanation for each track by MacLeod. I’m not sure what this adds to the equation, but they’re fun and they make you want to see the man perform live-he sounds like a genuine character. Macleod writes that the roots of his music come in equal parts from the Maritime provinces of Canada and the southern United States. These songs resonate deep enough to make their mark on any music scene.