Glenn McCready / Under the Influence of Unknown Influences
This feature also appeared in No Depression in August 2018
"Quite frankly it sounds f'n corny as hell …I was about eight years old, my mother brought home Abbey Road - she was a huge Beatles fan…she loved Little Richard too. And when I first heard 'She's So Heavy' - a song I'm not really crazy about - I immediately turned to her and asked: 'what is that fantastic sound?' You know, Paul is all over the place on that song…and she told me it was the bass. And I knew at that moment - that was it! I think of myself as a bass player. I learned to play guitar, piano, drums, and a little harmonica - but that's just to write!" Glenn McCready
Two middle-aged bass players walk into a bar in mid-town Manhattan…don't stop me if you've heard this one before.
Singer, songwriter, performing and recording artist Glenn McCready is a rock and roll lifer. It’s summertime and we're decamped in a bustling urban watering hole in proximity to our respective commuter trains and the talk, of course, centers our passion; playing bass and rock and roll -and a new brand of ale that McCready has discovered!
The twenty-something waitress is gorgeous - we don't notice. We are impervious to the cute thirty-something office girls seeking someone new to blow off a little steam, and the appealing forty-to- fifty-something women in the hunt for a hook-up. We've got more important issues on our minds. What gauge bass strings did John Deacon prefer? Check out Dee Murray’s riff on “Love Lies Bleeding!” Who does that anymore, other than our pal Tony Senatore, another guy like us! Should my next bass be a Jazz or a Precision?
I’ll let Glenn do most of the talking!
"My friend Henry used to call me 'Behind Blue Eyes McCready' - reveals Glenn over a second round. And there you have it. Glenn's sophomore solo slab is entitled Unknown Influences. My guess is that he's "taking the mick" out of us. I can distinctly hear Glenn's influences - heck, he puts out missives about his inspirations on social media wherein we all ruminate. However, McCready is that rare artist that incorporates that which came before him into his own voice. He sounds like himself – which should be the goal of any artist.
Glenn’s working cover band - I hate that term, let's re-brand that to "repertory ensemble" is Hell or High Water - a collective of seasoned, grizzly lads whom I've witnessed tear the house down and then some. These cats don't copy tunes, they shred them - in a good way.
"Hell or High Water made me a better singer…the songs that we do - such as 'Sugaree' - are wonderfully written and allow us to do our own thing” emphasizes McCready. “We came from a generation where you had to know what you were doing - whether it was the Wrecking Crew or just a singer and a band…you had to be able to bring it!"
Akin to the 70s golden age of singer-songwriters, McCready's libretto is borne of honesty and experience. "I was a young man falling in and out of love once a week or having love fall out of me…that's the great connector in all these songs. If you listen to anything on my two albums, all of these songs are real life. I can tell you who every song is about - what part in my life it played. I want some guy sitting in his room in Flushing with a beer in his hand hear my songs and say ‘ab-so-f’n-lutley dude!"
To my ears, Unknown Influences works as both a song-cycle and recordings which stand on their own individual merits – think singles and b-sides. As I have oft discussed with my pallies in the music biz; is the album format still relevant in an age of streaming, YouTube, and endless shared playlists? McCready opens a vein.
"There are still a lot of people our age who want to hear full albums. I gave this album to someone I work with who popped it into their car CD player, and it took 'em across the state of Pennsylvania! So it's relevant that way! Again for people our age, it's nice to have something tangible. If the cloud goes down, I've still got this!”
McCready brandishes his CD aloft as if it were a sword! “And I always carry a copy in my bag, so if I die on the street someone will get it! When they find my lifeless body, they'll say 'hey that dead guy made a pretty good record!"
Save for the drumming of Henry Kuck lll on the track “S.O.S. 2018” McCready is the sole musician on Unknown Influences – though you wouldn’t know it lest you read the album credits. The songs groove, the playing is disciplined. “The Section” would be mightily impressed. Though he road-tested some of his songs to work out the tempos and gauge crowd reaction, Glenn hears the songs in his head and then commits them to "wax." And he understands how to create a running order that takes the listener on a journey.
"The first song has to catch your attention …and like the old days of records - the fourth song was always the hit!" He continues " I adhere to the 'W' theory - start up, bring it down, up in the middle and then up at the end. I am trying to keep you interested… and sometimes it actually works! I only have the two records to speak for! Most songs stay the way I wrote them - I'm either stubborn or I have a vision. I left a little glitch here and there to give it the flavor of a live performance - the only two guys I've ever heard do a complete album by themselves and sound like a band are Paul McCartney and Todd Rundgren. Steve Winwood is brilliant but it sounds like Steve Winwood! I don't use a sequencer - I physically play the drums…which should be fun because I have a reggae song planned for my next album. I refuse to program anything!"
Anyone who digs bass will recognize McCready’s McCartney modus operandi. The countermelodies, upper-register passages, and warm tone afford a lyrical aesthetic to each track. Again, it all goes back to those known influences.
“I cannot stress enough my siblings - especially my older sister - Tea for the Tillerman, Teaser and the Firecat, Honky Chateau, I wore that vinyl through. I was just mesmerized by all of this…it was just a guy and a guitar! At the end of the day - Cat Stevens, Paul McCartney, Elton John - they were singer songwriters. But listening to those artists - and Gordon Lightfoot - Jim Croce - who wrote the ultimate singer songwriter tune 'Operator' - you could squeeze the emotion out of that song. I got turned on to John Prine who is what we all wanted to be - he could tell a story in three minutes with the same three chords - he's up there with Dylan and Joni to me. And don’t get me started on 'Harry's House' - I am very inspired by her visual lyrics 'a helicopter lands on a Pan Am roof like a dragon fly on a tomb…' who would not want to write that! And the glory of those 'f- you’ songs by Dylan, Elvis Costello…."
Thirty years-ago Glenn and I would have drank ‘til the wee hours, now we have “responsibilities” and blood pressure meds. But all is not lost! Neither of us show any signs of slowing down.
"I'm not aiming my music at 20 year-olds - I'm aiming at us! The Ray Lamontagne, Jack Johnson audience. I'm 57 and I'm not going anywhere! Doing this keeps me off the streets and out of jail!"
Glenn McCready’s Unknown Influences (2018) is out now and available at Amazon, iTunes, Spotify, and CD Baby.
Album cover photo by Michelle Clarke McCready.
Check out Glenn McCready on Reverb nation as Glenn Squared, and Facebook as Glenn McCready-Squared https://www.reverbnation.com/glennsquared/songs