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Gus McKay

Talisman

Review by Gary Hill

Gus McKay's sound is gritty and down to earth. He calls to mind people like Bob Dylan, Tom Waits and Lou Reed. His vocals have a real genuine feeling to them. This has a lot of singer/songwriter texture to it. Yet there is also a psychedelic sort of unearthly vibe to a lot of it. Things like country and jazz are sprinkled throughout. All of that adds up to a unique and intriguing listening experience.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2018  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Art of Living
There is an almost trippy kind of acoustic guitar driven vibe to this from a musical point of view. The vocals have sort of a Bob Dylan meets Lou Reed texture. After about a minute and a half, the musical arrangement shifts to a jazz meets psychedelic rock kind of thing. It's still quite trippy and really has a lot of spacey psychedelia built into it. The cool rocking guitar fills are an interesting touch. The smoking hot guitar solo later in the track lends a real blues rock vibe as the arrangement rises to meet it.
Fallen Down
Psychedelia and jazz seem to merge on this number. There is a cool soulful edge to the cut. It's very effective and so cool. In some ways there are hints of early King Crimson here. There is also a killer spacey vibe to the piece.
Hundred Acres
There is a lot of jazz on the mellower segments here. The rocking movements get into more of a blues rock texture. This is another classy cut that just plain works really well.
Piawaning Suit
Down-home bluegrass elements start this with a blues leaning. The cut gets more psychedelia in the mix as it grows outward further down the road. This is a powerful cut that has a folk music sensibility. There is some killer instrumental work here, particularly slide guitar. This is one of the highlights of the disc.
The Man
A stripped back, folk rock kind of vibe opens this cut. There is a real Tom Waits kind of feeling to this in a lot of ways. This gets into jazzier territory as the arrangement fills out as it approaches the close.
Muse
Folk music is the idea here. I love the way the acoustic guitar drives the track. The symphonic strings really add a lot to the piece, too.
Bohemian Life
The mood and tone of this song is very cool. It has an energy and cool groove to it, despite remaining fairly mellow. In some ways it almost feels like a continuation of the previous tune. The strings bring so much magic to this. This is very evocative and one of the highlights of the set.
Murchison Sequel
This is quite interesting. It has a lot of jazz built into it, but there are some intriguing rock things that lean toward progressive rock. Ultimately this is probably closest to psychedelia, but it has some classy flavors in that scope.
Gin Gin Morning
We're back into more folk meets singer/songwriter territory. This has some good energy and works pretty well. It's just not at the same level as some of the rest.
Last Dance
There is some bluegrass and some blues in the mix here. It's also constructed around a lot of folk music, but there is a psychedelic trip edge to this number, too. The harmonica is a nice touch.
 
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