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September 18, 2023
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Celebrating The Underdog With John McDonough’s “We’ll Answer The Call” EP

This is a tale of artful celebration. It’s far beyond your average album review – in fact, it’s about one of those rare EPs that fearlessly dance on the edge of the proverbial envelope. The artist in question is Chicago’s very own folk-acoustic maestro, John McDonough, and his latest EP, ‘We’ll Answer the Call,’ is nothing short of a whirlwind of musical emotions.

John McDonough’s music is a symphony in itself – an intertwining of emotions and observations, encapsulating everything that is raw, real, and resounding about human existence. His new EP is a clear reflection of his musical genius. A narrative weaving through an unexpected sports event, “We’ll Answer the Call” is as heart-touching as it is revealing.

Imagine, if you would, a tale of Joe Rantz’s inspirational journey to a gold medal in rowing during the 1936 Berlin Olympics. A story that’s about to hit the silver screen under the craftsmanship of George Clooney, McDonough’s EP takes us through this emotional rollercoaster with a lyrical finesse that’s quite unique. And since we’re on the topic, let’s delve deeper into this peculiar focus of McDonough’s.

In essence, ‘We’ll Answer the Call’ is more than just a compilation of songs. It’s a storybook, a chronicle of Joe Rantz’s inspiring journey to Olympic glory, encompassed by McDonough’s soul-stirring vocals and stirring guitar work. But the real charm of this EP lies in the dark, atmospheric backdrop it paints for Rantz’s tragic upbringing, which we’ll delve into a bit later.

Sure, the songwriting does devolve into the usual tropes synonymous with sports narratives at times, expecting the patriotic angle to carry more emotional weight than it perhaps can. However, there’s no denying the power and conviction in McDonough’s vocals, even if they’re not the prettiest in the conventional sense.

The intricate finger-picking in “Shooting Star” weaves a musical tapestry as elegiac as the tale it tells. The instrumentation, be it the glistening piano on “Shooting Star” or the gentle percussion on “Love You Just for You”, amplifies the underlying emotion. McDonough’s lyrics have the uncanny ability to captivate and resonate, making every song not just a melody, but a deeply moving narrative.  While his husky vocals might not be everyone’s cup of tea, there’s something about the raw power of his voice that perfectly complements the EP’s narrative and emotional depth.

Of all his songs, “Shooting Star” stands out for its poignant portrayal of Rantz’s hapless upbringing. McDonough’s ominous guitar licks lend credence to the grim imagery of Rantz’s struggles, making the bridge’s bold proclamation of escaping this painful past more impactful.

Another piece that’s worth noting is “Point Me East”. It’s a metaphor for Rantz’s reckoning with mortality, an ethereal journey of a ship (or a man) reliving its glorious past as it nears its end. The somber finality of the lyrics adds to its emotional resonance, making it a fitting finale to the album.

John McDonough’s “We’ll Answer the Call” is a powerful exploration of an inspiring story. It seamlessly blends folk and acoustic to create an emotionally impactful narrative. McDonough’s masterful guitar work, combined with his raw vocal power, makes for a unique listening experience.

The album has its flaws, like the over-reliance on patriotic sentiment and the occasional flat spots in the narrative. However, McDonough’s talent in creating immersive musical scenes, his innovative compositions, and the emotional depth of his songs make it worthy of your time.

So if you are looking for a unique musical experience that’s far from the usual, “We’ll Answer the Call” is worth the call. After all, it’s not just music; it’s a tale of triumph and tragedy, beautifully narrated through the power of music. And as John McDonough proves again, music is not just about sound; it’s also about the soul.

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