Listening to McCoy's second release, The Gravity Bell (self-produced with the help of Rex Hoss), makes you wonder if the success of his first album was simply a triumph of production. Where Ace crackles, Gravity Bell creaks. Where Ace shows masterful, craftsmanlike direction, Gravity Bell reveals some embarassingly amateurish moments. To his credit, McCoy has taken more of a folkie direction on his sophomore outing to present a truer sonic idea of his live performances. While the lyrics are consistently excellent, many of the melodies on the new album lack the grip of Ace. Synth/string work intrudes on many of the songs, and the drums lack the propulsive fire of the percussive Ace.
To be sure, there are moments of aching beauty here: "Rhett Butler Is Still Grieving" (propelled by McCoy's signature piano), "An Angel Falls on Corcoran Street" (one of the few low-key folk-based songs that succeeds), and the poignant and stirring closer "Until My Heart Can Find the Words" exhibit moments of brilliance that alone are worth the price of admission. When McCoy finally lets it rip, the production values rise to the occasion, and the result is the fabulously non-apologetic, supremely self-confident "God's Ear," with its bar-song singalong ending.