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Music Review - `Existential Frontiers` by White Owl Red (HC)

White Owl Red --     (click on image to watch video)

 20 March 2019

 

Black

The Rolling Stones meet Buck Owens on the title track of White Owl Red’s third studio album. The galloping rhythms of the tune propel the tune as the singer searches urgently for a little meaning in life in wry Dylanesque vocals. J. Josef McManus’ stories offer glimpses into the ragged ways that despair and hope twist in the sometimes hollow, sometimes full chambers of our hearts. He’s joined on the album by guitarist Gawain Mathews and drummer Kyle Capistra.

 

“Everything but Crying” opens with the tear-like strums of a mandolin backed by a Keith Richards-like guitar and then launches into the sly tongue-in-cheek break-up song. When the singer loses his lover, he tries “smoking grass from sunrise to sunrise,” but that only made him hungry. He tries “transcendental meditation”; he “read books about God I couldn’t understand,” and “traveled in India and Indiana.” Once he discovers crying—which he’s never brought himself to try—he realizes he “should have been crying for years/what the hell was I waiting for?” “Union Fight Song” could be a new anthem for working people; it’s a propulsive rocker that indicts the government for taking unfair advantage of folks working in factories, mills, restaurants. “We gonna show you what a red white and blue/union can do/we’re taking our country back.” The album closes with a song that sonically resembles “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright,” in which the singer says goodbye to his lover, recognizing they have nothing in common. Still, as he sings: “I’m wishing you well/but I’m all right.”

 

Existential Frontiers captures the messiness of life, and illustrates the many ways that we’re always on the edge of life, looking into the abyss of loss or despair or love. McManus’ songs illuminate our struggles while showing us the way to embrace them, make light of them, and transcend them—or at least move in a different direction, away from the abyss.

 

 

 Henry L. Carrigan, Jr.

 

Henry L. Carrigan, Jr.

 

 

 


 

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