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Bring On The Lions

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Album Review

On his third album, Bring on the Lions, released by the Swiss Brambus label, New York-based singer/songwriter Rod MacDonald at first takes something of a posthumous perspective on things. "In the land of the dead I walked," is the opening line of the first track, "Saving Grace," and several of the songs on the first half of the disc look back at the past and reflect with equanimity, as if the observer is beyond any mortal cares at this point. Contributing to the preternatural calmness of the material are the folk-pop chamber arrangements that feature the classically influenced Margo Hennebach on keyboards and Lisa Gutkin on violin, as well as MacDonald's own pure, somewhat uninvolved tenor singing. MacDonald writes lyrics in a highly poetic style and structures his simple melodies like old folk songs, while Hennebach and Gutkin contribute interesting musical figures to distinguish the simple tunes. This effect is particularly notable in "Love at the Time," the songwriter's confession of promiscuity and examination of its consequences. "The Coming of the Snow" makes explicit his debt to Bob Dylan, employing a theme similar to "Girl from the North Country" and "If You See Her, Say Hello," and on the album's most ambitious song, "After the Singing" (recorded live on the radio show Mountain Stage), MacDonald comes up with a set of images worthy of the Dylan of "Changing of the Guard." The second half of the disc is more various: "Norman" is a creepy retelling of the horror movie Psycho from the killer's perspective; "Wonderin' Why" takes on a laundry list of political concerns in the Reagan/Bush era, while the anthemic "South Africa" focuses on only one; and "The Well" seems to be MacDonald's metaphor for himself and his position as an artist in the world. The album as a whole is another collection of thoughtful material in which the singer/songwriter not only provides his interpretation of matters personal and political, but also turns his gaze inward to question himself. (As released, there is some confusion about the tracks. "New Man," listed as the 12th track, is actually the 13th, following a tender romantic ballad that is unlisted, and "Wings of Light," listed as the 13th track, is not on the disc at all.)


Born: 1949

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

Singer/songwriter Rod MacDonald was a big part of the 1980s folk revival in Greenwich Village clubs. After graduating from Columbia Law School and joining the staff of Newsweek, MacDonald elected to become a folksinger in the 1970s. Via the Fast Folk Music Cooperative, MacDonald and others like Richard Meyer, Christine Lavin, and Michael Jerling were an important part of the rebirth of the folk scene in New York in the 1980s. While MacDonald wasn't exactly a new face to New York folk music fans,...
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