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Album Review: John McDonough “Second Chances”

To elicit comparisons to music legends such as Harry Chapin and Elton John is no mean feat. It can only mean that an artist has surpassed the regular benchmarks of who a good musician is and that they have achieved artistic mastery in their genre of competence.

This is the reason why John McDonough has earned himself both critical acclaim and adoration from Americana fans all over the world. The retired psychotherapist from Austin, Texas has released projects that have done tremendously well in the past including Dreams And Imagination (2014) and Surrounding Colours (2017).

The latest addition to his impressive music catalogue is the acoustic album Second Chances. A crisp collection of reworked songs from both Dreams And Imagination and Surrounding Colours, this album makes for the perfect listen on a serene summer evening when you are feeling particularly calm and reminiscent.

Having taken his time to ameliorate his skills in playing the guitar during the pandemic period, the fantastic chord progressions and melodic guitar riffs inject those old songs with a new-found vitality and sonic luster and edge that makes them sound new all over again. McDonough’s growth is easily noticeable just by the dexterity by which he plays.

Some of the standout tracks from Second Chances include The Place Where I Belong, Nowhere Else To Run, Save A Life and Planes Fly Too Low. With his signature emotive songwriting that has had him compared to James Blunt and Damien Rice repeatedly, the whole project is an evocative musical narrative that covers an array of themes ranging from compassion, ambition, love and even war.

Always the one to address a topic close to people’s heart, McDonough stays true to this ideal throughout this project by ensuring that each and every song makes an impression and leaves a lasting impact on the listener. Quoting his own words when asked what effect he seeks to achieve with his music, McDonough says that “I want them to feel moved. I want to be able to take them to a different place with the depth of my lyrics, the emotion of my voice, and the beauty of my melodies.” For an artist so intentional and passionate about his craft, Second Chances does more than justify his talent; it sets him out apart as one of the best Americana musicians around.

–Kenneth Dwyer



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