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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Review: Steve McCormick - Lowlights And Footnotes

Steve McCormick - Lowlights And Footnotes

2008, Steve McCormick

I have to admit that the United Kingdom isn't exactly the first locale to pop into my head as a place to find great Country or Americana music. Steve McCormick doesn't claim to be either of those things, although Waylon, Hank and Merle have had a fair amount of influence on his songwriting (as have Randy Newman, Leonard Cohen, Tim Buckley, The Squeeze and even AC/DC). The Carlisle, Cumbria native released his debut album in late 2008 entitled Lowlights And Footnotes to critical accolades and a slow-growing but significant amount of worldwide airplay. Lowlights And Footnotes was mastered by Simon Heyworth (Tubular Bells, George Harrison, Nick Drake) and is played entirely by McCormick with the exception of Pedal Steel Guitar, provided courtesy of Dave Midgely.

Lowlights And Footnotes opens with Another English Cowboy, rocking right down to the roots of Country in a diatribe about not fitting the country mold. You'll be driven to dance and sing along to a song that could chart on American Country Radio if given the chance. McCormick gets a bit of Southern Rock flavor on the mid-tempo If Only She Were Lying. McCormick gets a bit trite in the chorus here, but the arrangement is a great listen. Making Light (Of Being Kept In The Dark) brings a touch of British humor to the honky-tonk on a mid-tempo number that walks the line between classic Country and the Eagles brand of California Country. On I'm Alright, Jack, McCormick celebrates his state of being at the expense of a friend who's down in the dumps, all set against a vibrant classic Rhythm & Blues fueled Honky Tonk sound. Back To The Booze hits the R&B fueled Country sound another try with a kicking guitar solo in the middle to really spice things up. McCormick lights the lamp with a song that might just be a party anthem in the States.

McCormick sounds a bit like Lyle Lovett on The Other Man, pointing out that no matter which point you are in a triangle, the other guy is always The Other Man. The song is well written, with a plaintive, Tex-Mex country ballad feel. My Woman Doesn't Give A Damn deals with stereotypical country heartbreak with uncharacteristic wit and panache. Like much of the rest of the album, McCormick is a classic story-teller. When he's funny it's not because he's trying to be funny, but because real life is sometimes dotted with humor and wit. Black And White Photographs is about family, memories and how gateways to the past often pave the way to understand who we are. It's moving and heartfelt without sounding sappy and may just be the best songwriting on the disc. McCormick closes out with Living In Loserville is a tongue-in-cheek song about being happy with yourself. It's a great closer for an album that plays the country game without giving over it's essential character to Nashvillian Zombification.

Steve McCormick is a story teller in the vein of Randy Newman (although perhaps no one has the chutzpah that Newman manages). McCormick's songs work because the characters and events he portrays are honest and real; even the fictional ones are written like a good character, and the choices they make are convicted ones. McCormick's stories come to life in songs based in Country Music but ranging from Rock to Tex-Mex and every possible blending of those styles. Lowlights And Footnotes should be the darling of Country Radio. Let's hope McCormick gets the right breaks.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Steve McCormick at or, where you can purchase a copy of Lowlights And Footnotes using PayPal. You can download the full album from iTunes, or a free four song sampler from McCormick’s website.

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