j e r r y    d a l e   m c f a d d e n

this girl

the earthworm has turned !

The lights have dimmed, the audience has gone home; the rest of the band have long since gone too. Jerry Dale McFadden is alone. He of the brilliant piano. He of the very loud suits (and even louder hair colours). He of the outrageously lanky legs prancing across the stage (on top of the piano etc) during the momentous finale of another magnificent  live Mavericks show. (Unfortunately, he is no longer a touring member of The Mavericks). Jerry Dale McFadden is very alone. The alter ego has been well and truly put to bed. Jerry Dale McFadden has only his thoughts to entertain. And these thoughts are fragile, filled with a gentle melancholy lingering on the edge of darker and uncertain shadows. These thoughts contain a slight bent of cynicism, mixed with humour and compassion. These  thoughts are manifest into the songs that comprise the very enjoyable album known as This Girl.

Jerry Dale McFadden's second solo album is full of haunting melodies, understated pop songs and moody montages that do not let you settle for just the single listen. The strangest task for the listener may be getting accustomed to the somewhat frail and quirky (at times) vocals. Jerry is not as an accomplished with the vocal chords as he is with his fingers, but don't let that detract you from investigating the pleasures of This Girl. Like many virtuoso instrumentalists and rather unique vocalists, (i.e Tom Verlaine, Victoria Williams, Iris DeMent, etc ) the vocals may be considered an acquired taste - but well worth acquiring!

The opening title track, is a slow quirky pop-oriented song and introduces the listener to the 'voices' of the piano player as he attempts to 'soar' in the style of a very young and in-experienced David Bowie clone. Maybe this was not  the best choice for the opener, as it demonstrates the limitations of Jerry's voice, rather than highlight other redeeming factors of the song. It is advised that you move on to the next track to really start to enjoy the album. Come back a bit later for this one.

The second song, Let It Go, however, is the real deal. Co-written with Robert Reynolds (who joins in on acoustic guitar), this song finds Jerry's voice in a much more comfortable and suitable surrounding. Let It Go is a beautifully despairing ballad, not unlike those patented by The Jayhawks, built upon a fine melody and with catchy chorus/harmony vocals. Jerry is also assisted on this track by Ken Coomer and Jay Bennet from Wilco, on solid drums and soul-stirring lead guitar respectively. Next up, Catch Yourself is a 'sort-of' love song; "catch yourself, before you fall - into my arms"; allowing Jerry to limber up with some slightly jazzy piano work amongst the funky conga (and electronic) drums and the double bass.
The simple acoustic ballad, The Remembering, finds Jerry hiding in an English country garden, whispering to the listener from the bustling hedge-row, as he counts back the memories of a love forlorn. His piano sprinkles fairydust throughout the proceedings. Nick Drake is apparently alive and well and living in Nashville!

Hope For The Best is probably the most melodic, most melancholic, and the standout song of the album. We are led into the loneliness by some lovingly gentle piano fills, spacey electric guitar and aching cello, as Jerry makes a desperate plea for release from all those nasty things that this world can bind us to. But throughout it all, Jerry does not forsake everything, and still manages to find the optimism one needs in a time of darkness. A pearl!

Stand, Whisper And Fall , another co-write with Robert Reynolds (who plays guitar on this one), is a folk-rocking tune with some fine rambling violin, soft-grunge guitar breaks, and the straight-forward story-telling prose of a man on the run - from love? For the next song, Man In The Box, Jerry digs out the old platform shoes and glitter hairspray for a touch of glam. A quasi-pop song, courtesy of the fuzz-guitar, electronic drum treatments, echo chambers, cello embellishments and the rising and falling chorus lines. In 1999 it could also be Placebo, in 1972 it could have been Marc Bolan! Unfortunately, during the chorus, Jerry's vocals fail to meet the demands he has set himself and the song suffers as a result.

Jerry soon makes amends, as Waking Moments provides the most dark and moody moments of the album. He lies awake with those all too common imaginations that only fading darkness can produce - the fear of what cannot be seen. With simple piano murmurings, eerie synthesiser and the slightly sinister fretless bass, the scene is set for another day, somewhere north of Twin Peaks!  Heading way back south, If Lovin' Is A Sin, Jerry saunters through a traditional waltzing ballad, complete with violin, dobro, and one Robert Reynolds assisting on backing vocals and guitar. A song with a nod and a wink to Gram Parsons and Gene Clark of The Flying Burrito Brothers.

The album 'temporarily' closes with Almost Home, a gentle romp that says goodbye gracefully and leaves the listener in a calm and peaceful mood, but with an aching to start the journey that is This Girl, all over again. It has been a very interesting experience. As am afterthought,  the actual final 'hidden' track, is a demo, presumably titled Call For Love. Jerry, somewhat tongue in cheek, attempts to play the part-time crooner, while the the normally piano-bound Ben Folds' hits the skins and producer Brad Jones' fingers the bass. A loose fallout to end the proceedings on a slightly distracted note!

For those expecting anything remotely similar to the music of The Mavericks, then this album is not for you. The only similarity being a rugged individual approach to a collection of songs, written from the heart, and devoid of any current musical trends. This Girl allows the listener to enter into the vulnerable and tender world of the normally very brash figure that has become (for fans of The Mavericks) synonymous with name Jerry Dale McFadden.

This Girl is full of little surprises, the biggest being that Jerry provides absolutely restrained piano and keyboard work throughout the whole proceedings. He has not been tempted into any form of virtuouso overkill! This is Jerry as the singer/songwriter (he wrote or co-wrote all songs on the album) and he has allowed each of these songs to breathe organically, with simple, yet thoughtful and varied arrangements. The sound is crystal clear, and actually makes distinctive use of the stereo channels  - something that is not too evident these days on modern recordings.

It is an album that grows closer with each listening. It is an album for those autumn afternoons or late nights, not your average summer party. It is an album for the melancholic. (As a fully fledged member of Elvis Costello's Melancholics Anonymous - it sits very nicely with me!).  This Girl will not find a place on any top selling chart, but it has found a place high in this heart!

Where Were You Tonight?
An outake from the album, Where Were You Tonight? again features Ken Coomer and Jay Bennett, and was co-written with Robert Reynolds. It is again another melodic number, obviously influenced by the sound and playing of the aforementioned Wilco band members. The song opens and closes with a George Harrison style slide guitar riff and is carried along incisively by the distinctly stolid sound of Ken Coomers' drumming with Jay Bennett interjecting various guitar stokes and strokes. Like much of the album, and it appaers from the songs of SWAG, there are plenty of harmony vocals, this time courtesy of Robert Reynolds. This song would have fit very nicely along with the rest of This Girl and could have possibly been a good song to release as a single to promote the album. But hey, instead it's free, so download it now and enjoy!

                                                                                                © 2000 chris swann

 jerry dale mcfadden