album reviews

Pat McGee Band
These Days: The Virginia Sessions
Independent (2007)

From the uptempo folk-rock songs of "These Days: The Virginia Sessions," it's not immediately apparent what a rough year Pat McGee has had, as he buries some of his darkest sentiments beneath bouncy rhythms, alluring harmonies and jangling melodies. "I Don't Think I'm Listening," for instance, feels summery and carefree despite his plaintive lyrics ("I can't sleep without the thought of you here waking me up / I won't make it through today without it breaking me up").

Despite a few slower moments ("Come Back Home" is particularly thoughtful), it's not until the final track that McGee openly reflects on the trials of the past year. "End of October" is dedicated to the band's former drummer, Chris Williams, who died in October. While McGee's melancholy is instantly apparent from his tempo and tone, the song is more of a loving tribute to a close friend than a gloomy dirge.

McGee truly excels on the lively songs that populate the rest of "These Days." "Guess We Were" benefits from rich harmonies and breezy "na, na, na" singalongs, while "You Want It All" is playful to the point of near sassiness. Those cheery moments show the power of McGee's ability to focus on creating something positive in the wake of a personal tragedy.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 6 July 2007, Page WE06