Rod MacDonald

The Man on the Ledge

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Highway to Nowhere (1992), Rod MacDonald's first album for the Shanachie label, was actually a re-jiggered version of Bring on the Lions (1989), which had been released in Europe. His second Shanachie collection, The Man on the Ledge, is a newly recorded set of mostly new songs, however. (MacDonald has opted to re-record "Honorable Men," which appeared on the second volume of the Fast Folk musical magazine (aka The Co-op) in 1982; "American Jerusalem," which appeared on his first album, No Commercial Traffic, in 1983; and "Zydeco," which was on his Italy-only 1989 album Simple Things. "Some Things I Like About America" has a 1982 copyright.) As usual, while coming under the folk rubric, MacDonald, with his acoustic guitar, leads arrangements that touch on rock, country, and blues. "It's Your Dime" is a country ballad that ought to be heard in Nashville, while "Up on the Mountain" sounds like "Will the Circle Be Unbroken." "I Can't See the Reason" has the feel, especially in Bernie Shanahan's keyboards, of early Bruce Springsteen, and the title song also has a distinct rock tilt. "Some Things I Like About America" uses its bluesy arrangement to support the dry wit of the words. MacDonald is typically wide-ranging in his lyrical concerns, addressing political and historical issues sometimes with a caustic tone, as when he is recalling assassinations ("Honorable Men") or the Holocaust (his translation of Francesco Guccini's "Auschwitz"), and sometimes in a more hopeful frame of mind, as in "For the People" (subtitled "Song for Czechoslovakia") and "Hey, Mr. President," which pokes fun at Bill Clinton's assertion that he smoked marijuana but "didn't inhale" (yet concludes "I think I voted for a winner/For the first time in my life"). As usual, MacDonald also has love on his mind, and as usual things aren't going so well, as he devotes two successive songs, "It's Your Dime" and "I Can't See the Reason," to addressing former girlfriends who want to remain in touch. The love life of the singer is, of course, complicated by his lifestyle, as this peripatetic musician acknowledges in another love song, "Dallas," when he sings, "I've no right to ask someone to love me/When I'm moving all the time." Restlessness and dissatisfaction seem to drive the rambling title song, but the man the singer encounters on the ledge eventually steps away, not jumping, and that seems to be the defining metaphor for the songwriter here, that he must press on, even in the face of romantic and philosophical travail.

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