John McGrail
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John McGrail

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The best kept secret in music

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Of all the anti-Bush records in recent months, John McGrail's Songs for Troubled Times is likely to be the most musically ambitious and lyrically heavy-handed. McGrail pulls no punches and has much to say, but he isn't going to let you get away without doing some thinking of your own; this is protest music that goes beyond sloganeering. Ostensibly a folk singer, McGrail is all over the place stylistically; folk takes a backseat to hard rock, alternative rock, and country rock. "Earthday," his screed against environmental abuse, is an excellent U2 impersonation, and "Sometimes We Forget" will have listeners over 50 remembering the Byrds' classic 1967 "Notorious Byrd Brothers." Two bouncy tunes, "Genocide Johnny" and "Just Like Tim McVeigh," are McGrail's most obvious, as is the metal-flavored "Almost Funny." This won't appeal to everyone, but it shouldn't be ignored.
Steve Byrne-The Cleveland Scene

- The Cleveland Scene


Local singer-songwriter John McGrail tackles a lot of socio-political issues on his disc called Songs for Troubled Times. Not only is it his first solo release in almost a decade, he quickly sets out to tell you that not much has changed during that time. Except, perhaps, that he is an even better guitar player and lyricist than the last time you heard ‘em.
Fairly or unfairly, McGrail gets roped into the “folkie” category. Truth is, he has quite the historical handle on a lot of different musical genres—progressive rock, modern jazz, classical, folk, classic rock and world music. And to complicate things even more, he’s one hell of a guitar player who knows how to coax tones out in just the right way.
He gets a lot of rich, crystallized guitar tone on the set opener “Earthday,” which picks at Dubya’s dad even as McGrail himself picks at tone quality the likes of Eric Johnson would be proud of. He switches gears with the following modern rock track, “Sometimes We Just Forget,” which would make a fine bedfellow for the recent Push Stars disc.
It’s when McGrail really turns up the heat on the political issues that he tends to earn those folkie armbands he’s probably grown used to wearing. Not that it’s a bad thing. Tunes like “Losing Our Voice,” “Almost Funny,” “Just Like Tim McVeigh” and “What Would Jesus Say?” are weighted with folk rock leanings and rather obvious intent.
And then there’s “Genocide Johnny,” a song that McGrail wrote about a fictional (or not?) co-worker “jerk” who myopically wants to destroy all Muslims. “He said, ‘I’m proud to be an American because we’re always right/War is good so long as we get to pick the fight,’” McGrail growls, linking this particular Johnny to Saddam Hussein.
Maybe somewhere in Cleveland, McGrail has voice mails saved from Michael Moore and Bill O’Reilly—one asking him for the rights and one telling him he’s wrong.

Peter Chakerian - Cool Cleveland e-zine - Cool Cleveland


Discography

Songs For Troubled Times
The Sun
He has also written music for the Headwhiz Consort Moderne Internationale (an experimental group) on their album Baobob

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Bio

If you are a right wing republican you should hear John. If you are a liberal left winger you will probably like him!

John makes no apologies for his politics and including them in his music. When pressed on this he merely will tell you "You wouldn't expect a man in love not to right about love so why would someone who is actually paying attention to the political world (a rare commodity in the USA) not write about that. It is all part of life!"