Sean Macgregor / Winding Road
(Produced by Sean MacGregor and Ron DiSilvestro.)
Using the term “rock music” doesn’t mean much these days. There are so many variations and sub-genres that defining what makes “rock” is more complicated. Sean MacGregor’s new album, Winding Road, feels like rock, as in…it is hard to give a specific definition to. Perhaps this is something that works in his favor.
“Small Town” is the first track (available on iTunes). First impression was a mix of 90’s rock and Christian rock. It has an edge, but never pushes to it. Think Goo Goo Dolls or Better Than Ezra. The lyrics have a slight modern country vibe, but it is a solid song. First songs should set a tone for the entire album and this one does just that.
The next track, “Can’t Sleep Tonight” sounds like a continuation of “Small Town” in a way. It is like a sequel. People listen to tracks out of order, but if listening through it would be unfortunate to listen to this right after the first song. Only because people have ADHD when it comes to unfamiliar artists. The song is good, but not different enough.
Now, we get to “Winding Road.” It’s the album title and that makes it an important song. How did it stand up? Honestly, it should have been the second song I listened to. The music is pleasing and nostalgic. The crescendo from beginning to end is well paced. The only criticism is that the lyrics seem to be trying a bit hard. The album works to paint a picture and three songs have positioned him with alcohol, as if to really drive home how “down to earth” this man is. This is only an example of the strain in the lyrics and it does not happen often. As a single, however, it carries a lot of life and a good representation of the album as a whole.
MacGregor’s vocals are on key with modern pop rock like Jimmy Eat World’s, Jim Adkins or Yellowcard’s. The range at which he sings does make it sound as if he’s always singing the chorus to songs. By the time tracks like “Sundays” and “Nebraska” came around I was a bit exhausted. He has an excellent voice for this genre of music, but he could stand to explore other ranges in order to provide a wider variety.
“Nebraska” was one that easily could have benefited from starting lower and building, allowing us to relax for a moment. The music itself was gentler in its start; something you might listen to while driving down a lonely stretch of highway and creating a journey. If lower range vocals aren’t possible, then soft spoken might have provided that room for climax.
Finally, we come to the last track. Easily one of the best tracks on the album, “Ellie” is a father’s song to his daughter. While the other songs may hint at experiences, this one goes head first into the love he feels. Here, his vocals blend with the music in such a way that eases the audience into this story. The vulnerability and sincerity are never more evident than with “Ellie” and it is a perfect way to end the album.
McGregor wrote most of the songs, only co-writing “Nebraska” with Chris Rhoads. He is a talented singer and songwriter. Several songs could be soundtracks to films or to an individual’s real life. Winding Roads isn’t perfect. As a full project, it misses some vocal variety and lyric / music harmony. Yet, as individual tracks, it has enjoyable additions to a playlist. Winding Roads is a good step McGregor and hopefully, the growth will be heard in a follow-up album.