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Published: 2009/05/05
by Brian Robbins

Singles Only George McConnell


Okay, let’s get this little phrase out of the way first: “former Widespread Panic guitarist George McConnell.” You done with that? Good let’s move on.

George McConnell’s Singles Only is just what it says: a collection of the singles the veteran guitarist has made available on his website as A- and B-sided “virtual 45s.” Of course, we dinosaurs who actually lived the days of the little black records with the big ol’ holes in the middle of them will remember that the b-sides were usually thought of as the weaker tracks that sometimes didn’t ever see the light of day on an album but often turned out to be hidden treasures. As far as Singles Only goes, forget about the As and Bs the good ones are good and that’s it.

McConnell proves himself to be a songwriter with a sense of humor and an ear for a hook and a vocalist who can pull off both a love song and a kiss-off tune with equal credibility. But the foundation of Singles Only is the guitar work of McConnell and co-slinger Daniel Karlish. The pair give you a face full right off the bat: the album-opening “Goodbye So Long” sounds like Some Girls-era Stones right up until McConnell and Karlish start laying down wild harmony leads that ol’ Keith and Ronnie would never have attempted back then. (And probably not now, either, God bless em.) The instrumental “Mr. Cropper” is an obvious nod to one of George’s guitar heroes, but so is "In Walked You," all silky blue-eyed soul and riffs that sound like classic Stax. And speaking of the afore-mentioned Keith Richards, “Feel No Pain” is a stripped-down tale of the elegantly wasted with a beautiful guitar solo at its heart. The totally radio-ready “Must Not Mind” provides an idea of what Supertramp might have sounded like roughed-up.

The punkish screams of “Here We Come Now” and snarls of “Hollywood Babylon” seem almost out of character on the album although it is a collection of “singles” rather than the result of a beginning-to-end session. (But wait these were “A” sides? Oh never mind.) McConnell’s at his best when his Mississippi rock roots are showing, and, for the most part, that’s what Singles Only is all about.

Okay, okay: quiet down, all of you dirt seekers who can’t pass a car accident on the highway without rubbernecking in hopes of spying some gore. I hear you out there, hungry for some reference to George’s Panic experience. Well, eff you shut up. There really isn’t any. This is an album of George McConnell tunes written and performed by a guy who’s looking ahead, rather than over his shoulder. The closest thing to acknowledging how hard the world can sting is “Hey Man”, a collection of classic drunken a-hole hanging round the stage lines:

Hey man, don’t I know you from somewhere?

Yeah, brother didn’t you used to be somebody famous?

Oh, yeah, well I remember you playin’ guitar in some rock n’ roll band

Lookyhere, man, if you did get the chance, do you think you could

Introduce me to the drummer? He’s standin’ right there

But even then, “Hey Man”’s Thin Lizzy-like hook and quasi-reggae-beat verses are just too damn fun to be bitter.

And that’s the deal with Singles Only: it sounds like George McConnell is having fun being George McConnell.

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