The Austin Sessions – Edwin McCain
ATC Records 20022
Edwin McCain pretty much cemented his future as a one hit wonder when "I’ll
Be" became a teenage anthem and television staple in the late 1990s. It’s
not because the singer-songwriter creative juices dried up, but because
the success of the song is virtually impossible to ever re-create. "I’ll Be"
was a megahit and a kiss of death of sorts. It took McCain away from his
core fans and made him a megastar for popular consumption. Of course,
popular taste equates to an attention span of about a calendar month.
As its title suggests, The Austin Sessions is an attempt for McCain
reconnect with his roots. It’s a stripped down acoustic setting where most
songs feature only McCain and guitar along with longtime band members Larry
Chaney (guitar, mandolin) and Craig Shields (saxophones). "Let It Slide,"
the opening number, gives the impression that the Charleston native is more
concerned with alt-country credibility than his pop past. The driving song
evokes strong imagery of Elvis, Kennedy, dive bars and Coupe DeVilles.
It’s a short lived moment and he soon resorts to his trademark brand of
McCain is a strong but rather innocuous writer whose music mirrors
his pen. Vocally, he’s strong but somewhat of a one trick pony, afraid to
stray from his tried-and-true phrasing devices that accentuate his scratchy
vulnerability. Aside from the opener, the strongest material here either
comes from one of his previous albums ("Go Be Young" sounds like the second
chapter to "I’ll Be" in its content and utter catchiness) or in choice
covers (he finds new space in Dire Straits timeless "Romeo and Juliet").
The Austin Sessions isn’t a bad disc by any means. It simply fails to
expand on a sound that has already been noted for being more garden variety