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9X from Plan 9 Records

Michael McAdam
A Million Miles
Permanent Records

Review by: Kent Harrison

Michael McAdam, now a Nashville-based songwriter and a session guitarist extraordinaire who has been called on by no less than Steve Earle, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Charlie and Bruce Robison and more to help flesh out their albums, once spent some time around R-Town in Virginia. I probably only arrived on the fringes of Mr. McAdam's period in the Capital City, so I won't profess to know what/who he played with here. I do think that he probably was in the version of The Good Humor Band that played in VCU's now-defunct Shafer Court stage, or perhaps in a number of other clubs, including Good Times. Anyhoo, Michael McAdam has spent the past couple of decades contributing to a considerable amount of intelligent country and Americana music. Over the past few years he has also been assembling some of his original tunes, and carefully has made a remarkable debut solo record. A MILLION MILES is an impressive survey of well-placed guitar licks, finely tuned instrumental backing, and some heart-felt, tugging, memorable lyrics. Before you read on and skip this review, let me drop some names of whom McAdam's premiere record reminds me of: Stephen Bruton, Bill Lloyd, Steve Earle, Marshall Crenshaw, John Hiatt, Tom Petty, to name a few. If you aren't into any of these guys, please press fast forward. Examples? How's about "Thanks A Lot," a Hammond organ drenched bitter kiss off to those stuffy "friends" with money, shiny cars, and "sushi dinners;" and the Crenshaw-like "One Good Day," whereby the singer, like any addict, exclaims "all I ask for is one good day." The mandolin-framed acoustic "Paper Thin," with Kim Richey's perfectly placed harmonies, is probably the closest to country/folk McAdam gets on A MILLION MILES. This line says it all: "We walk on ice that's paper thin/We live a lie we live a sin." McAdam does his best to demonstrate that he ain't a one trick pony on A MILLION MILES. He dabbles with cocktail jazz with the Bacharach-ish "Suzannne," treads close to RUBBER SOUL territory on the acoustic love song "Little Things," and takes a shot at pure pop in "Right Before Your Eyes," a very hummable tune which gets extra points from this reviewer for including references to "the rumble seat of your daddy's Dodge." "Eden Avenue" is stalker-ish ("Seven rows behind you, a theater dark as coal/I carefully plan my exit before the credits roll") and has a hauntingly beautiful slide guitar ending. "You Know I Will," a cool little song closest in vein to McAdam's times with Steve Earle, is probably the most frank, lyrically wise ("And I've been lonesome and been misused, But I never seen the likes of a woman like you"). The tune is eerily similar to John Prine's "All The Best." Of course, a musician with Mike McAdam's talent is expected to showcase some chops on his first album, and he gives us a few, tasty, and satisfying morsels on A MILLION MILES. Proof is in "Stratisfaction," a hot Fender-bending, string-melting road song, with Richmond's Mike Lucas contributing electric rhythm; and in the mind-bending version of the Tokens' classic "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." McAdam's interpretation includes wah-wah guitars, Hawaiian Steel, pedal steel, and cleverly placed lead guitars taking on the traditional vocal parts, and gives the song depth with perfectly timed percussion and "Hup-Hup" chants. So, go look in Plan 9's Local Music section to find this CD. If it sells, then perhaps someone will take notice of Michael McAdam's skills beyond the fret board and give him a chance to share more of his songwriting.

Available online at CDBaby
or at Plan 9 Records and Tower Records in Richmond, VA

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