Reaching for Some Light
Distributed by: Scott S. McDougall
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
In May 2016, Portland, Oregon-based singer, songwriter and instrumentalist Scott McDougall released his eighth full length album, Reaching for Some Light. This album in particular is something of a departure from past works. Prior to Reaching for Some Light, McDougall had one rule about recordings – if he couldn’t play it live by himself, he wouldn’t record it. This album represents a release from his self-imposed rules, but he still found a way to perform the majority of instruments himself.
Reaching for Some Light is indie rock with a folk quality that draws you in. Each song tells a story with lyrics often containing biblical references. McDougall’s singing voice may not be the strongest, but it grows on you, especially when you realize that the lyrics are incredible and the music is downright amazing. McDougall’s musical prowess is proven in tracks like Cut Loose and Barely Holding On, two instrumental tracks, the latter of which definitely has a Celtic influence. This, too, represents a departure from the norm for McDougall whose fans know him for his traditional hill-stomping banjo instrumentals. According to McDougall, “I go back and forth, whether I should have done more instrumental songs. I didn't do any of the classic style banjo-tunes that many people expect of me. But, I kind of feel that the instrumentation is developed enough in the songs with words that it wasn't really needed to find that balance I usually go for.”
And those songs with words – they contain incredibly powerful storytelling content. I have a couple of favorites. In Stranger on the Prairie, the story is about a man who has left his loved ones behind, including his young child, in search of work. As the song progresses, we learn that the man has not always been the model citizen, the best son or the best husband, but that he has found maturity on the road and is hoping to convey this to those he misses. In Pitcher on the Train, the story is about a pitcher who is following in his grandfather’s footsteps, trying to prove himself as worthy to do so. But somehow, in the midst of his pursuit, he gets caught up in all the things that can lead a man astray and eventually suffers a metaphorical death on the mound, just going through the motions, but incapable of enjoying the life he wanted so badly.
McDougall is an incredibly talented musician and songwriter and his latest album, Reaching for Some Light, may be a departure from the traditional fare, but once fans of his earlier music take a listen, I think they will agree that this is by far some of his greatest work yet.