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Richmond Times Dispatch

Bill Craig

Richmond native Michael McAdam has been suffering from an image problem.

If you've been hanging around Central Virginia's clubs and bars for more years than you want to admit, you probably know McAdam as a charter member of the Good Humor Band.

If you're Mary Chapin Carpenter, Steve Earle, Radney Foster, Lee Roy Parnell, Matraca Berg or any of the other Nashville, Tenn., cats that McAdam has recorded and/or toured with, you know he's one of Music City's most in-demand guitar pickers.

But unless you're McAdam's mama, you might not know that he's a darn good singer and songwriter, too. And McAdam wants to change that.

"I'm known as a guitar player and that's about it. Hardly anyone knows that I write. Nobody knows that I produce records," McAdam explained over the phone from his Nashville home. "I wanted to have an album as a calling card of sorts so that people in Nashville in the music business here and elsewhere would know that I do a little bit more than just play guitar."

That calling card, in the form of McAdam's brand-new CD, "A Million Miles," is now a reality.

During the past four years or so, McAdam worked on his own project in between the session, production and touring work he regularly does for other artists.

"I have a recording studio here [in Nashville]. When I'd write a song, I'd go up to the studio and demo it," he said. "I had four or five demos of songs that I really liked and I decided that if I had four or five more like those that I could make a pretty good record. Four years ago, six or seven songs were done, recorded and mixed. I finished the last four songs in the past eight months."

He did most of the work himself, with the help of his partner, Jack Irwin, who engineered the record.

"I was just layering guitars, mandolins, dobros and bass and drums and playing a lot of that myself and keyboards, too," McAdam said. "On some of the later stuff, I got some friends to come in and put together a rhythm section and play bass and drums with me."

McAdam has spent a ton of time backing up some of country and Americana music's best talent. But if you're expecting the next, great Nashville alt-country effort, you might be disappointed.

He's included some well-placed twang, a couple of ballads and a nicely done cover of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," but "A Million Miles" has as much great rock as anything.

"I didn't want to make a Nashville album; there are plenty of people here who do that. I was just drawing on some of the influences that I grew up with like the Beatles, the Stones and the Byrds. There's even one song on there that's kind of a Burt Bacharach song with the obligatory trumpet solo and everything. When I was growing up in the '60s, you could hear all that stuff on the radio and I liked it all."

McAdam found great joy in recording and producing his own CD. But he's less enthusiastic about promoting the album, the first item on his New Year's to-do list.

"I've been touring with Radney Foster and am out promoting his new album and I may be opening some shows for him. I'm going to do the whole Internet thing and tie to all the Web sites of all my friends that I've played with," he said. "This isn't fun though. Making it and the creative process is fine, but I do not like trying to promote a record."

Initial feedback, especially from McAdam's colleagues in the business, has been favorable.

"I've been getting pretty good reviews from all of my friends and artists alike. I'm getting a lot of good phone calls and even letters from people saying how much they were blown away by the record because they didn't know that I could sing, write or produce."

When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: The Canal Club, 17th and Dock streets
Cost: $10 in advance; $12 at the door
Details: (804) 643-CLUB

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

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