Eamon McGrath comes from Canada. He grew up in Edmonton, Alberta, Canadian Western province, North of the US state of Montana, with lots of prairies. This is where he started to come up with his first songs, recording them in his house and distributing them around on cd-rs to friends and fans. There is about 15 to 20 of those proto albums that he made in very small amount of copies and it is unclear what exactly is contained in those releases. Perhaps some songs repeated in multiple versions, but what we can tell for sure, they were all recorded relatively cheaply in lo-fi technology.
Some of these first recordings appeared on McGrath first official release for an actual label White Whale Records in 2009 on a compilation record 13 Songs of Whiskey and Light. This is when I first heard of McGrath. Although 13 Songs of Whiskey and Light record is technically a compilation, it really flows as a normal release. All songs are fresh and show a great consistency and a talent of a new songwriter. This is also around the time when McGrath moved to Toronto to pursue his musical career more actively.
With a label, growing audience and extremely positive reviews from the British press, McGrath quickly established his name as the greatest new name coming from Toronto. The quality of the songs also showed that some of the current great songwriters, such as Greg Cartwright and Harlan T. Bobo from Memphis TN, got a new challenger from an unexpected place. The race for the greatest contemporary songwriter is on.
This year brought another release for McGrath. As you can see from the title Young Canadians, the record is a patriotic view on the Canada today and the generation to which McGrath belongs to. He is quite young, in his early twenties, and he can already claim to be the poet of his generation. Images of the Canadian life and landscapes fill the lyrics of the songs. This is not an idealized picture of the world around McGrath. It’s similar to Springsteen’s Nebraska or Born In The USA – it’s patriotism with consciousness.
Talking about Springsteen, this is a name that is often quoted as a strong ingfluence on McGrath. But, it is not the only influence. I can also hear a lot of Warren Zevon, particularly when some cynicism springs through some of the lyrics. On the other hand, McGrath also never hides some of the fresher influences. Paul Westerberg is often mentioned in his interviews and Bob Mould from his “poison years” is another one that I hear. Just listen to the screaming vocals of the closing track Saskatoon on this album, and you will understand what I’m talking about. The synthesis of all these influences in McGrath music is for one perfect. He is picking on some of the most wonderful songwriters in the history of rock’n’roll. Also, the synthesis is seamless. He wears the influences proudly, but also brings a lot of new things into the mix.
It would we wrong to understand McGrath purely as a singer songwriter, although this is pretty logical if you are basing your conclusion only on his records. However, the news comes to us that his live shows are totally rocking, and his live trio sounds more like Black Flag than the E Street Band. If you ask me, that’s kind of a surprise I’d love to experience!
McGrath is raw, unpolished jewel that is rare to find. He breathes greatness from every grove on this new record and we can consider ourselves lucky to be his contemporaries. He takes all from the life and experiences around him and fiercely returns it all to us on a record. May the spirit of Bob Stinson be forever with him.
First published on rockxs.com.