What happens when you have a rather interesting and checkered past? Well, you write songs based around it. That is precisely what singer-songwriter Michael McDermott has done with the help of his wife Heather Horton. Together, McDermott and Horton got together to create songs that have a rather dark side to them, as the songs deal with the not-so-pretty side of life; the side of life that McDermott knows all too well. Together, Michael McDermott and Heather Horton make up the core of the band The Westies.
With The Westies, Michael McDermott and Heather Horton have created songs that deal with the grimy underground that exists within society. Having already created one album in 2015 entitled West Side Stories, the musical outfit has returned after only one year from the release of that album with what amounts to being “part two” of the concept. That newly-released second album is called Six On the Out.
Six On the Out, the new album from The Westies, plays like a combination of little vignettes, with each song focusing on an entire storyline within the timeframe of only a few minutes. From one song to the next, you meet different characters and live their stories before moving on to the next character and storyline. And while each song is its own plot, they combine together to form an interweaving storyline that brings each character together into the same crime-filled universe.
The Westies’ new release begins with the track “If I Had a Gun”. With the band building their music around Folk music as well as many other musical influences, it is that Folk influence that shows up loud and strong within “If I Had a Gun”. The track begins with the sound of the acoustic guitar and the mandolin coming together to form a strong musical base that soon finds the band adding a lot of rock influence to the track. The song revolves around a character who finds himself freshly released from jail and looking for something to do, although he’s not sure which path to take- the legal job path or the more familiar path that led to his being incarcerated in the first place. The choice of which path to take seems to rest on whether or not the main character can get his hands on some sort of weapon. With the same sort of “what if” scenario running through the song “If I Had a Gun” brings to mind the older song of “If I Had a Rocket Launcher” from Bruce Cockburn as both songs ponder what would happen if things were different.
While “If I Had a Gun” deals with one man’s choice of whether to go straight or pick up where he left off, “Pauper’s Sky” is a track that picks up the pace of the music and adds a more upbeat feel to the lyrics…but only barely. The lyrics of the song deal more with city as a whole than the deal with one character, although the song is told from the viewpoint of a man living within that gritty city. The music of the track feels very familiar as the band creates a song that brings up the styles from the 1980s. Within the track, you can feel the influences of Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp, even the not-so-real band of Eddie and the Cruisers. “Pauper’s Sky” is one of the strongest tracks on the new album from The Westies and one of the tracks on the album that proves that the band can truly rock when it wants to.
There is definitely a strong dark undertone to the songs on Six On the Out. Like the track “If I Had a Gun,” “Parolee” deals with someone who just got out of jail. Maybe the same someone? But unlike the character in the album’s first track, the character in “Parolee” finds himself trying to figure out just what to do after he paid his debt to society as no one seems to want him around. The music for “Parolee” finds the band of The Westies bringing the Folk flavor back into the Rock sound on the track. The listener can really feel the dark undertones to the lyrics of the song as the singer sings about the struggle inside of whether to stay and try to make it work or to get the hell out of the city to try and start anew where people won’t look at him strange.
Things change with the track “Like You Used To”. With the tracks that came before, there was a large amount of darkness that appeared within the songs. On “Like You Used To,” The feeling turned to sadness. While Michael McDermott has lent his voice to the previous tracks on the album, it is wife Heather Horton who takes her turn on lead vocals on this track. The track is a slow-paced heartbreaking song about a relationship that has seen better days as the singer laments that her lover no longer loves her the way he did once before. The track features a sound that seems perfect to be covered by a well-known Country music star. You can almost imagine someone like Suzy Bogguss singing the song. “Like You Used To” is one of the shining moments on the Six On the Out release.
With the next track of “Everything is All I Want For You,” Michael McDermott and Heather Horton create one of the most upbeat tracks on the release. The two singers create a Folk-Rock tracks with a very strong duet-like approach, although McDermott handles most of the vocals. While most of the lyrics deal with the bad that has happened, McDermott sings of better things to come.
The Six On the Out release from The Westies has many moments worth hearing. While there is a lot of darkness within the lyrics of the songs on the album, it is the musicianship of the players on the album and the writing of the songs themselves that add up to create a very strong album. Bottom line, this album is as good as anything available on a major label.
Check out the video to The Westies’ song “The Parolee“.
For more information, check out the band’s PR firm, Michael J. Media.
Click on the album cover below to purchase a copy of the release.