I love real stories. I am inspired by Richard Shindell, Dylan, Townes Van Zandt, Springsteen, and the fact that my mother loved to sing along with her AM car radio. When the great Texan George Brown moved to Baltimore and I first heard him sing “Pancho and Lefty,” I knew I would play. He taught me how, and also that music is for bringing people in, not excluding. Other important teachers and influences include The Bank Street Band, Kate Campbell, Seth Connelly, and Dick Pleasants.
Beyond my CD "Letters Home," accomplishments I am most proud of are my song "Liar's War (Letter Home)" receiving honorable mention at the 2005 Boston Folk Festival Singer Songwriter Contest and my playing at the SAMW stage at the 2007 Boston Folk Festival.
Solo Live Performance:
John MacLean - vocals
John MacLean - accoustic guitar, Martin D35
Performing With Others:
While I most often perform solo, I have being doing some gigs with wonderful guitarist and singer Miike Gooley. I've also played with singer songwriters Marc Bridge and Perry Desmond-Davies and guitarist/pedal steel maestro Al Cath. And if you give me enough lead time I can get some of the excellent musicians who played on "Letters Home."
"Letters Home" (with Seth Connelly, Matt Leavenworth, Don Croad, and Valerie Thompson). I have six songs up on my MySpace Music page at http://www.myspace.com/johnmacleanspace. I also have a Facebook artist page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/John-MacLean/24177021219. You can listen to two minute previews of all the songs and buy the CD and mp3's at CD Baby at http://cdbaby.com/cd/johnmaclean. It's also available at iTunes and Amazon.
One of the finest original traditional folk albums of the past few years
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Tuesday, May 5, 2009 Review: John MacLean - Letters Home, 2008 John MacLean finds inspiration fo...Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Review: John MacLean - Letters Home, 2008
John MacLean finds inspiration for songwriting in his own life and experiences as well as from the world around him. The Baltimore native lives in New England with his family, and released his debut album in 2008, Letters Home. MacLean has a knack for intelligent lyrics and easy, down-home arrangements that seem like they walk write from the American Folk Songbook.
MacLean has the singer/songwriter aesthetic down pat, telling stories from that same comfortable perch as greats such as Woody Guthrie, James Taylor and even Dylan. MacLean wraps his stories in comfortable arrangements that are pleasant to listen to and seem to support the stories they purvey. Letters Home opens with Blind Willie McTell in a classic sounding folk arrangement with country and blues accoutrements. Still Waters has a classic country/folk feel to it with a lilting melody that will stick with you like oatmeal on a cold day. New American Way is an apropos song for difficult financial times. Focused on corporate greed and the divergence between rich and poor, the song tells an allegorical song of the stripping away of America's working class jobs and opportunities, complete with members of the corporate community who refuse to face up to their decisions. This issue has been addressed in song numerous times in the past twenty years, but rarely with so much grace.
Touch A Name On The Wall is a highly personal and poignant tribute to fallen Veterans of the Vietnam War from a Vet who came home. Scores of tributes exist, but MacLean's personal missive has more power than most. Add in a highly listenable country arrangement and you have a very special song, indeed. Liar's War (Letter Home) takes on the Iraq War in contrast to Vietnam, praising the soldiers and the fallen while denigrating the reasons for the conflict. Once again, MacLean has the standing to speak on these issues as a Veteran and the brother of a fallen Vet. MacLean indicts the motives of both the Nixon and Bush governments without ever mentioning their names or specifying charges. It's this subtlety that turns Liars War, and Letters Home in general, from a typical folk album into a masterful collection of songs. Other highlights include Beyond Our Time, Pancho And Lefty and First Met You.
John MacLean writes with a poignant pen, sliding his meaningful and weighty stories into songs crafted in gentle tones and pretty home style melodies. Letters Home didn't strike me the first time I listened to it. This is not an album you listen to casually. MacLean has put his heart and soul into each song, as if into a musical diary. If you aren't really listening then you'll never get the full sense of Letters Home, one of the finest original traditional folk albums of the past few years.
Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)
You can learn more about John MacLean at http://www.johnmacleanmusic.com/ or www.myspace.com/johnmacleanspace. You can purchase a copy of Letters Home at www.cdbaby.com/cd/johnmaclean.
Played On The Midnight Special
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"I have played several songs from your CD. It's good work." Rich Warren, The Midnight Special & Folk..."I have played several songs from your CD. It's good work." Rich Warren, The Midnight Special & Folkstage, WFMT (98.7 FM) & XM Satellite Radio, Chicago, Illinois
This guys needs to be in your record collection
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I played John MacLean’s -"New American Way" This is a great track with a subject line of today’s Ame...I played John MacLean’s -"New American Way" This is a great track with a subject line of today’s American situation. There’s a lot of songs being written like this right now but this is by far one of the best ones I’ve heard. John is based out of Massachusetts and his daughter says he plays “Blues – tinged folk sometimes with a little politics. John says he plays from the heart and of the heart. I say this guys needs to be in your record collection if you like his genre. He kinda reminds me of Kenny Rogers and perhaps a little Guy Clark.
At Java Joe's
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"Baltimore" is full of heartbreak. The room was silent, listening..." James O'Brien, Jamaica Plain ..."Baltimore" is full of heartbreak. The room was silent, listening..." James O'Brien, Jamaica Plain Bulletin
Storyteller Finds Music Is His Muse
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John MacLean has always been a storyteller. He has told stories from history in his classroom at the...John MacLean has always been a storyteller. He has told stories from history in his classroom at the Belmont Hill School where he has taught history for nearly 20 years. He has told stories from the stage through the school’s theater program. And he has told stories from the heart with the recent release of his first musical album, “Letters Home.”
“As far as I’m concerned, it’s all stories,” said MacLean, who plays a mix of covers and original folk songs on acoustic guitar and vocals.
MacLean, 62, said he has always loved music but did not pursue a musical career until late in life.
His earliest musical memory is of riding in the car with his mother during the hot summer days of his youth in Baltimore. The was no air conditioning in those days, he recalled, and his mother would roll down the windows to stay cool while she unabashedly belted out her favorite tunes as they played on the radio.
“The thing I remember so vividly is my mother singing to the car radio,” said MacLean, who has lived in Massachusetts for 20 years, including the past 13 in Lincoln.
He may have been embarrassed by his mother’s automotive antics as a boy, but MacLean would learn to share her enthusiasm for local AM radio. Growing up in Baltimore, he listened to a wide range of musical styles from mainstream rock to country and western to what was then considered “black music.”
As a student at Colgate University during the height of Beatlemania, MacLean enjoyed turning his classmates onto new types of music.
But it was not until years later that MacLean, at the age of 34, first picked up a guitar. He remembered hearing George Brown sing “Pancho and Lefty” and deciding then and there to take a shot at being a musician.
“Having long decided that it was too late to do these things, I decided I had to do this thing,” he said.
Brown taught him guitar and the duo formed a band with some other friends from Baltimore. The Bank Street Band, as they called themselves, played mostly folk music, but drew from eclectic influences.
“We just played what we liked, then we figured out how to play it on acoustic instruments,” MacLean said.
After moving to Massachusetts, MacLean attended a summer music camp run by WUMB, the UMass Boston radio station that he called “the flagship of folk music in America.” MacLean began singing and writing original songs, and with some encouragement, eventually decided to record an album.
MacLean began working with musician and producer Seth Connelly, recording for months in Connelly’s studio in Brookline, N.H. Calling the experience “a great education,” MacLean credited Connelly for guiding him through the process of creating his first album.
“He said to me, ‘If nothing else, you will be a better player and singer when you’re through this.’ [And] he’s certainly made my music sound better than I’d ever before,” MacLean said.
Producing the album took about 14 months from start to finish, and last June, MacLean finally held a copy of his first CD in his hands.
The album, entitled, “Letters Home,” includes 12 songs, four covers and eight originals, all featuring MacLean on acoustic guitar and vocals. MacLean is accompanied throughout the album by Connelly on various instruments, and on selected songs by Don Croad (drums), Matt Leavenworth (violin) and Valerie Thompson (cello).
MacLean said he has already received a lot of feedback about one song in particular, “Liar’s War (Letter Home),” which draws parallels between the Vietnam War and the current conflict in Iraq.
In writing the song, MacLean said he drew upon his own experiences during the Vietnam era, when he served in the Army, but was not sent overseas. MacLean said he eventually became an opponent of the war, but did not approve of the way many people treated the soldiers who were sent to fight in Vietnam.
“What disturbed me was people sometimes weren’t able to distinguish between the people sending soldiers off to war … and the ones doing the actual fighting,” he said.
He also created a music video for the song with images from both the Vietnam and Iraq wars. The video has become a hit on YouTube with more than 27,000 views.
MacLean, who occasionally brings his guitar into school, said his students were excited when they heard about the album.
“They think it’s pretty cool. Students think that teachers are in the classroom and then they just walk over and stand in the closet … They are often surprised to find out their teachers have some sort of other life,” he joked.
MacLean said he is grateful to his wife, Grace, and daughters, Eleanore, 15, and Kate, 13, for supporting him as he pursued his music. Recording an album on top of already long hours teaching and directing school plays did not always leave much time to be at home with family, but Grace never complained, he said.
There was a time when his daughters were younger, MacLean recalled, that they refused to go to bed until he played them a song.
“That was a treasure. It was an honor that they wanted to hear what I played,” he said.
MacLean's album, “Letters Home,” is available on iTunes and several other online retailers. For more information, visit www.johnmacleanmusic.com.
By Ben Aaronson/Staff Writer Wed Dec 31, 2008, 07:57 AM EST
My longest regular feature is 90 minutes (45/45). I have gone as long as 2 hours and short as 30 minutes. I'm flexible. I now usually sing a mix of about 50% my own songs/50% covers. The Bob Dylan/Richard Shindell/Joel Mabus/Townes Van Zandt/John Prine cover selections in the set below are typical of my cover repertoiere.
Blind Willie McTell, Bob Dylan
Baltimore, JM (that’s me, John MacLean)
Courage to Care, JM
Still Waters, JM
New American Way, JM
Reunion Hill, Richard Shindell
Touch a Name on the Wall, Joel Mabus
Liar's War (Letter Home), JM
Pancho and Lefty, Townes Van Zandt
Faraway Friends, JM
Joe Roberts, Bruce Springsteen
Troublesome Daughters, JM
Hello in There, John Prine
American Beauty, JM
Winter's Tale, JM
First Met You, JM
|Sep 24, 2013 Tuesday||6:30 PM||Nourish Restaurant||Lexington, MA, US|
|I will play my half hour feature set sometime between 8:00 and 9:00 PM|