Chuck McDermott's new album reflects a mature, open-hearted comeback by one of the more fascinating, under-the-radar singers of his generation. Chuck cut his teeth in the country-rock field but left music for a real job for many years. He has since enjoyed a creative rebirth. He has enlarged his focus to a sophisticated cross between honest singer-songwriter originals ("Gin & Rosewater" was inspired by his future wife), Steve Earle-style passion ("Red Betty"), funky Little Feat-like excursions, and a stunningly reworked cover of Johnny Cash's "I Walk the Line" that is like hearing the song for the first time. But the most powerful moment comes on "Hold Back the Water," a moodily atmospheric, very modern-sounding track about the ravaging of the planet. Chuck uses a great cast of musicians throughout and this album is a welcome breath of fresh air for listeners who crave lasting quality above fickle trends.
Steve Morse– longtime Boston Globe Music Critic:
Professor of Rock History at Berklee College of Music
What a refreshing work! A true old school musician. Seriously. Check this out. Songs. By a person that sings with character. A pleasure to have made a contribution.
From the opening track of Chuck’s new album “Gin & Rosewater” you know there’s some grit and vinegar in this guys’ showcase. You know he’s the real deal as well. Nothing in the material is standard, clichéd or typical of any country genre. It tells stories, he ties them up in in a countrified-folky manner… and the tales unwind in your ears to be savored.
It seems he can do it all – balanced, diversified and assured..
John Apice– No Depression
The legendary Chuck McDermott continues to deliver the same potent top-shelf American music he conjured with Wheatstraw and The Chuck McDermott Band, and later as Americana elder John Stewart’s closest conspirator. McDermott’s soaring Irish-via-Iowa tenor and 21st Century tales of red, white and blue glory, romance and woe are filtered through his rock-the-honky-tonks sonic signature. If there’s a more powerful evocation of current human challenges than his “Hold Back The Water,” I haven’t heard it. McDermott doesn’t simply cry wolf, his pitched-to-perfection artistry demands transcendence.
Michael Simmons– Music Journalist - MOJO, Huffington Post
Chuck does a service to us all by keeping the John Stewart flame alive. Irresistible Targets made me miss John so much. Chuck has so much of his vocal…. ‘Intent’ is the right word, I think. Truthfulness. It was a pleasure to hear that song again, rendered so true and with such integrity.
It's no wonder McDermott was named to the Massachusetts Country Music Hall of Fame--his music is simply pure art.
Chuck McDermott's a man. He sings like a man. His sentiments and vocabulary are adult. There's no postured "folkie-Okie, see-how-sensitive-I-am" horse shit here. He's a a golden-throated singer with a tight band and his eyes wide open. He's read good writers and learned from them and lived a lot and thought about it. Some of these Gin & Rosewater songs sneak up on you like an assassin who has lulled you to sleep---The Girl From St. Lucy, Irresistible Targets. He and his words are a breath of fresh air. Not a hint of whining. A Man! Clear-eyed, fearless and tender. I've been playing his album for days.
Peter Coyote– Author, Actor, Director and Zen Priest
Chuck McDermott is a Yale educated cowboy whose approach to old country and honky-tonk styles are influenced by the example of Gram Parsons. Like Parsons, McDermott may not accept all the moral values that traditional country lyrics espouse (Parsons was an L.A. anarchist; McDermott is a Boston liberal), but he performs it all so earnestly that words become superfluous. It’s the emotion-soaked reediness of his voice that makes the aesthetic payoff.
I love this record and honestly feel it’s one of the best I’ve ever been involved with. Why? 1. Great songs. 2. A genuine voice. 3. Chuck selflessly gave the musicians and myself full creative input into shaping the arrangements. It’s a pretty simple formula!
Lorne Entress - Producer (Lori Mckenna, Mark Erelli, Ronnie Earl)
A number of songs are starting to get under my skin in the best of ways. A really stunning dark, brooding version of Johnny Cash's I Walk the Line, as done by Chuck McDermott. I don't usually like to introduce and artist with a cover song, especially if it's a song that's just iconic and you think, the artist is never going to approach the original. But he's done it! It stunned me. Here's Chuck McDermott covering Johnny Cash, and... I Walk the Line.
And if name sounds familiar to you... in 2015 he was inducted into the MA Country Hall of Fame." "... though (his record) is a bit more of a blues based sound, blues and almost jazz chops. Some top notch musician and great production." "...the musicianship is top shelf.
Perry Persoff– DJ WUMB Radio
People sometimes ask me, "What are some of your favorites among the records that you've played on?" My answer is along with Robert Plant, Buddy Miller & Norah Jones, I also list Chuck's, "Gin & Rosewater". It’s an album of very honest, great songs from top to bottom.
Marco Giovino– Drummer/Producer
As befits a Yale dropout, McDermott makes music with an edge of educated subtlety--the comic send-ups of cars and compulsive consumption sound quite a bit more political than Jerry Reed's, the forlorn laments a whole lot more existentialist than George Jones's. Yet Jerry Reed and George Jones are definitely the comparisons: McDermott may sound a little like Phil Ochs or Keith Carradine in their country personas, but his voice is stronger and more country.
Robert Christgau– The Village Voice
My late husband John Stewart was one of the greatest songwriters of his era, and he knew great music when he heard it. John made Chuck his partner; he loved him as a friend and respected his writing and musicianship. I can hear Johnny shouting from the stars “BRAVO”. This record is a treasure, beautiful in every way – vocally, lyrically and musically. It’s a breath of fresh in this digital age, a true and honest accomplishment.
Buffy Ford Stewart
Chuck McDermott's music is like hearing what Gram Parsons would be doing if he were alive today. He effortlessly pulls together the patchwork elements of Americana with the insight and sophistication of a veteran songwriter.
Patrick Coman– DJ WUMB Radio, Boston
Chuck McDermott is an essential part of the Boston music fabric… beloved by peers and knowing fans and someone to point to when looking for an easy definition of “Americana”.
Chad Berndtson– The Patriot Ledger
From the early days with his fine local Massachusetts-based band, Wheatstraw, to his personal connection in California playing and recording with the great John Stewart, Chuck McDermott has forged a solid and lasting musical career. His writing, singing, playing and recording show his dedication and belief in the power of music. With an excellent new album on the horizon, I can sense this thread continuing forward. Exemplary songs like The Girl From St. Lucy and James Foley Diaries reveal a deep sense of newfound maturity and absolute grace. I urge you to see Chuck and his band live. You will be astounded by the powerful performance. Energy delivered! Amen! I will happily continue to air Chuck McDermott right here on My Back Pages!
Barnes Newberry– Host, My Back Pages (www.mvyradio.com)