Brian McGrath
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Brian McGrath

Chicago, Illinois, United States

Chicago, Illinois, United States
Band Folk Singer/Songwriter


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Album Review: Brian McGrath – Back of the Yards EP"

Brian McGrath hymns the blue collar virtues of his home city Chicago in his bio but listeners will find their minds wandering off to New Jersey, or perhaps Nebraska, when they hear his debut release Back of the Yards.

The figure of the man they call the Boss is never far from your mind as McGrath’s spins his working man blues to a suitably lo-fi backing of guitars, bass, guitar and Bruce-esque piano, blues harp and glockenspiel.

That’s not to criticise McGrath by the way, nor to accuse him of being a Bruce-lite – he’s a fine songwriter and when the next influence-free artist comes along I’ll be flying my pigs up to meet you on the good old blue cheese moon.

Opener All Broke Up shuffles in on bluesy rockabilly guitars and nicely showcases McGrath’s huskily tender vocal style. Oh, and he’s sad, as he will remain throughout this set.

It’s into the deep of the River Bruce for I’m a Ghost with it’s piano chords and trademark wheezy blues harp. “Now the rain’s a coming but the fire burns strong,” could have come straight from the pen of the Asbury Park man. That said, it’s a nice melancholic and meandering narrative with a particularly strong middle eight.

In The Streets of Chicago takes a rootsier and folkier route and – like all these tracks – is effectively arranged and performed with a commendable honesty and gutsiness. McGrath showcases some nice accoustic guitar work in this love and hate letter to his home town.

Fine, Fine Line’s simple couplets and chamber rock sound wouldn’t be out of place on a Johhny Cash American Recordings set and it’s a stand-out vocal performance from McGrath.

We get some ghostly slide guitar to mix things up on Winter’s Coming but the themes and lyrical tropes are getting familiar: there’s a highway, the wind howls, the lord might just be out there but he’s not there yet. Again, it’s well performed, and you can’t doubt McGrath’s sincerity but you do start to will for him to stretch his wings a little and find his own voice.

The one really false note in this heartfelt set came with the penultimate Back of the Yards. It’s a strong enough song alright – in the style McGrath’s established – but if the out-of-tune piano is a production decision it’s one that’s wasted on me. It’s a shame, because the effective and impactful use of drums show what he can do with his arrangements.

There’s a touch of the Tom Joad’s about closer Without A Price and, the delivery of the personal-regret lyrics leave you in no doubt that McGrath really does mean what he’s saying and is doing as Bill Hicks demanded, by playing from his heart – I’d put money on him being a fine live performer.

A strong set of songs then but an artist who could perhaps do with wearing his influences a little more lightly. - Indie Music Reviewer


Back of the Yards EP - 2010



Chicago has long been blue collar - a place where people work much too hard to worry about irony, a place where the weather equalizes all, a city where people's hands bleed with a day's work. This is Brian McGrath's home.

A folk singer/songwriter, McGrath delivers with pained passion an honest portrayal of the everyday struggles of regular folks. There are no frills here, only the directness and sincerity of a shared experience expressed through vocals that are powerful yet tender, pained yet hopeful. Musically, McGrath's sound is a unique mix of American folk with Irish folk and rock, a perfect backdrop for his vocals and lyrics. Played live, the songs ignite in a fury of passionate urgency that remains long after the embers have faded and the lights go out.

Brian McGrath is currently playing shows in and around Chicago in support of his debut EP, titled "Back of the Yards" The EP can be downloaded at with a no minimum, name-your-price option.