Armed with a bittersweet-world-weary tenor, pointedly observational narration and a crack band of veteran musicians, McLean crafts a surprisingly coherent trip through love, loss and redemption in the quiet corners of the Pacific Northwest. This is the kind of personal exploration that has paradoxically become a rarity in folk/Americana, where bands like Mumford and Sons, considered the “new rock of ’12-’14” aim for a universal thematic swagger not far removed from the top 40 meaninglessness of Katy Perry and Robin Thicke.
Glossolalia is visceral, polished and soaring at times but these songs remain firmly grounded in a tradition that places earnest midtempo-bar-bands on a straight line directly descended from Woody Guthrie and Gram Parsons. No stranger to music biz shenanigans, McLean gives every appearance of committing everything to this music, leaving no songs or emotions in reserve. Standouts like album-opener “Coat of Many Colors” and first single “Sinking Ships” use atmospheric pedal steel and pulsating bass to maximum return levels even while McLean’s lyrics are unmistakably confessional.
This push/pull tension reigns throughout. As a unit, Marshall McLean band are almost hyper-competent musically, yet remain soulful enough to let a loose note or two slide. The album itself, impeccably mixed and mastered, never sounds overblown or compressed to painful levels. An impassioned statement from an independent band bound for bigger things, Glossolalia is a undisputed success, and a record that has every opportunity to slip into Album of The Year conversations at blogs like this one everywhere.
Glossolalia is out independently on Nov. 16th, 2013.