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splendid > reviews > 12/27/2005
Cameron McGill
Cameron McGill
Street Ballads & Murderesques
Self-Released


Format Reviewed: CD

Soundclip: "Dirty Green Jackets"

Buy me now
The songs on this Champaign-Urbana-based roots musician's second full-length album are subtle and, for the most part, quite strong, combining the traditional sounds of acoustic guitar, harmonica, piano and voice in pleasing and interesting ways. McGill cuts a little too close to Dylan's "Times Are a Changin'" on opener "Love's Worst Day", following the same chords and raspy delivery to slightly different ends, but he sounds more distinctive on the cuts that follow. His piano playing is particularly subtle and effective, adding a shimmering, citified underpinning to the plaintive "Worry About a Thing" and a gospel-style Lyle Lovett stateliness to "Birmingham". The album's best cuts are story songs, particularly the folk-picked "Gutenberg's Bible", which sets the story of movable type to melody with a mesh of lovely ascending chords and lightly touched choruses. Though more overtly country, "Noah's Worst Nightmare" is also quite good, and the minor-key "Dirty Green Jackets" is barely-there beautiful -- subtly phrased vocals accompanied evocatively on the piano. The cut gains heft late in the game with glowing sweeps of violin, its emotion building through cascades of piano notes and louder vocals -- and then, just at the end, McGill cuts back to nothing, nearly whispering the closing coda. You realize, as the song ends, that you've damn near been holding your breath. It's not easy to build this kind of tension with only the traditional elements that McGill employs, but when it works, it's well worth listening to.


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