by Eddie Caiazzo
Title: Winding Road
Artist: Sean MacGregor
Release Date: Friday, November 4, 2016
Produced by Sean MacGregor and Ron DiSilvestro
For the better part of two decades, the Philly influence in popular music has all but evaporated, leaving local artists to experiment with different genres from around the country. Sean MacGregor, an artist that emerged in the early 2000s, is the latest to be bitten by the Country music bug.
MacGregor fronted the Alternative Rock band MorningSide from 2000-2010, when the band decided it was time to go their separate ways. MorningSide’s success brought MacGregor to all of the major local stages including World Café Live, the old Grape Street Pub (now called The Grape Room) and the main stage at the Trocadero as the headliner. The band’s decision to move on left this Northeast Philadelphia Alt-Rocker with songs yet to be written, and a developing interest in the sound, style and culture of Country music.
7 out of 10
To call the Winding Road EP a Country record is somewhat misleading. While the Music Genome Project from Pandora might categorize the guitar riff from the opening track “Small Town” as such, only the lyrics really resemble a Country scene. The vocal style in which the lyrics are sung is closer to MacGregor’s Alt-Rock origins, stripped of the harmonies during the choruses.
“Can’t Sleep Tonight,” like “Small Town,” is a mid to up-tempo track that stays positive and captures the moment of a new love appropriately in the lyrics.
The title track, “Winding Road,” is the half-way point of this six-song EP. It comes the closest to the Country setting MacGregor is striving for…all while striking a pleasing resemblance to the radio friendly rock of the late 1990s. Musically, it is the highest point of the experience, and would be a successful formula for MacGregor on future releases.
“Sundays” surprises from the opening lines through its conclusion. It isn’t the standard song structure, and producer Ron DiSilvestro adds some nicely timed strings that give the listener a break from the guitar-lead offerings leading up to it. “Nebraska” is the first song where the lyrics stray from the positive country setting of alcohol and fire pits, instead focusing on feelings of a love lost. While most songs containing this message usually take a depressing turn, MacGregor prevents that from happening, finding a solution in the music to keep pushing forward and moving on. “Nebraska” is the only song containing lyrics co-written by his close friend Chris Rhoads; a traveling Country music fanatic.
Finally…we come to the song about being a new father. “Ellie,” the finishing track on the Winding Road EP, removes the listener entirely from the five songs before it. A beautiful song fit for the occasion of a father/daughter dance, it may not be an appropriate closer for an EP, but a later numbered track on a full-length album. By all means, it is a fitting tribute from father to daughter…but would be more effective removed from this specific set of songs.
Overall, MacGregor and DiSilvestro have proven they make a good team with a style they seem most familiar with on the Winding Road EP. I personally wanted to hear fuller choruses to make the hooks more effective, with perhaps a few different voices backing the lead effort. But nothing really takes the listener away from enjoying the drive from the backyards of Philly to the cornfields of Nebraska, even though they may not be on country roads.