Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
Occasionally, you will hear some music that will make you stop what you’re doing, stand still and listen as if the singer is speaking to you directly. The voice sends goose bumps out in troops to march all over the flesh. The lyrics reach out and touch you, affect you, consuming you and not letting up until the song’s end. A true artist brings their story to life with lyrical integrity and, of course, it helps if the artist is blessed with a voice intense and commanding enough to relate it. Thankfully Dodge McKay is truly blessed with all of the aforementioned attributes and Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow is his story.
Having achieved recognition in the nineties as the frontman of Irish band Ghost of an American Airman, McKay, who was once described as an “explosive and majestic” and “animated” stage presence has now retired to the studio where he has written the lyrics and independently performed all of the instruments on each track. Whilst his efforts on this, his first solo album in 16 years, may prove he makes a mean one-man-band, the diversity on offer proves he is no one-trick-pony. The poetic lyricism of the album’s intensely personal opening track All My Days is both haunting and melodiously cinematic. McKay delivers his touching eulogy with the stark realism of a broken man and the passion of a son who means his every word.
He also has the capacity to bring to life long forgotten characters of the past. Leaning hard on his folk sensibilities with Lower Me Down, McKay mellifluously takes on the persona of a Flamborough climmer, risking his life to collect eggs from the decaying East Yorkshire coastline. Lush harmonies reticulate like the waves themselves crashing against the savage and decaying cliffs that host the song’s spellbinding narrative.
The album contains many autobiographical tracks such as the toe-tapping Belfast Boy, in which Dodge brings out the banjo and affectionately proclaims his roots. Soldiers on the other hand is subtly ambiguous, an incredibly valiant yet vulnerable offering which is divulged with deeply affecting candour. Island man, with it’s titular homonym, is similarly cryptic lyrically and like the majority on offer here is both gentle on the ears and heavy on the heart.
Those already familiar with Dodge will have grown accustomed to the production that formerly accompanied his vocals, whether it be on GOAA albums or his later incarnations in Thompson or The Monday Morning. The prime advantage of Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, is that in its simplicity, it showcases the wholesome talent of the man and multi-instrumentalist and lays bare his raw, yet altogether cultivated abilities. The Street intermingles a familiar plethora of eccentric personalities around a first-rate hook, ever the storyteller, the setting is built brick by brick painting a masterpiece of a picture from which the euphonious narrator is desperate to escape.
The melodious melancholy of This is my Ghost, recalls the passion and conviction of the great, timeless folk icons. You can practically feel the libretto wistfully reverberating against the darkness of the long gone coffee house walls. Closing track I’m Lost is a sentimental and delicate appeal for clarity, a needless appeal at that. As Dodge sings “Help me find my way” you cannot help but think that, after returning with work of such masterfully contained ingenuity and indeed following a such lengthy hiatus, that he has already found it and it sounds assuredly glorious… Or as the humble man himself would put it… Aye it’s grand!
Writer, Critic & Blogger for The Huffington Post.