Cameron McGill

Warm Songs for Cold Shoulders

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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming

The trouble with too many musicians working the fields of alt country is that they sound as if they're trying to project an identity that has little if anything to do with their life experiences -- maybe Bob Dylan was talented enough to persuade folks he was the bastard son of Woody Guthrie when he was really a middle-class kid from Minnesota, but most guys who want us to believe they spent their lives riding the rails or working the farm in the new millennium sound like the bad actors they truly are. Chicago-based Cameron McGill never really convinces the listener that he's a for-real musical vagabond on his fourth album, Warm Songs for Cold Shoulders, but he's a gifted enough thespian and songwriter that you're not likely to care -- these ten songs spin a web that's compelling and engaging, weaving back and forth between high drama and subtle passion with a lyrical strength that rings emotionally true, and McGill's vocals, bobbing between a whisper and a plaintive, muted shout, are superb, especially when he harmonizes with Katie Bracken. It certainly helps that McGill is backed by a band that carries this music with a masters' touch, and on these sessions Some Army has expanded into a pocket orchestra whose empathy for these songs is on a par with the composer himself. Add McGill's spare but intelligent production and a clear, potent recording and mix from Manny Sanchez and the result is 41 minutes of rough, sweet beauty; McGill may not convince us he is all the people he sings about on Warm Songs for Cold Shoulders, but he understands them well enough to make them knowable to his listeners, and in some respects that's the greater achievement.

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