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On the Way to Washington-The Way to Washington

( On the Way to Washington – The Way to Washington


Acoustic folk/pop songwriter still searching for his own voice.

No one should ever accuse Joe McCready of having a faulty internal editor. Here’s why: the far and away best song on his second full album is called “On the Way to Washington.” Joe McCready recognized this early on in the project – so much so that he renamed his band and his album to reflect this. He even put the song as the first track on the album.

The song is brilliant. “On the Way to Washington” is a folk song that does what you want it to do – it introduces a riff, introduces a calm, low, melodic vocal line that has enough emotion to feel real but no so much to get all sappy and pop-songy. Then the shuffling drumbeat comes in, a cello starts sawing away, and a piano tosses some notes in. Place names are called out; an ambiguous “you” is referenced. There’s a break, then another verse. McCready lets the tension build and build. By the time the chorus arrives, the tension is almost palpable.

The chorus, relentlessly memorable, crashes in. McCready’s smooth, lithe voice calms and excites at the same time. Singalongs ensue. The song weaves its way out. Then I hit repeat and listen to it over and over. The song is nearly perfect. The only thing it’s missing is an octave jump on the last chorus. I’m pretty serious about this.

Unfortunately, McCready has committed a cardinal sin of song order: he has undermined the reason to listen to the rest of the album. In positioning the stand-out track first, everything else feels inferior. The songwriting isn’t bad for the rest of the album; it’s just that it’s not nearly as good as “On the Way to Washington.”

“I Don’t Mind” sounds like what Jack Johnson would sound like if he ever woke up out of his coma. “Apple” starts out with hopes of reaching “…Washington,” but falls short after a jazz-lite piano mucks it up. There are insinuations of Jason Mraz (“Maybes”) and even the Beatles (“Goodbye,” “Grip Slips”) throughout, but the songs just don’t stand up to the glory that is “On the Way to Washington.”

And yet, the closer “Only One” goes a long way to redeem the album. It’s a spare ballad, very tender, very emotive. It keeps the interest level high, and it moves forward very well despite the overall snail’s pace tempo. It’s pretty. It’s memorable. Not “On the Way to Washington,” by any means, but it’s definitely an improvement over the rest of the album. Even more than that, it’s easily recognizable as Joe McCready. When he just calms down and does his thing, he does have a really recognizable voice and melodic structure.

Joe McCready has a few magical songs on The Way to Washington. If he can capitalize on these successes and use them to his advantage in his future efforts, his albums will be wonderful. He just needs to focus on his strengths and drop songs that he knows aren’t as strong as the rest.

-Stephen Carradini