Stained Bliss

John McGrail

Rock and Folk tossed in a blender with additional stylistic spices.

PLEASE NOTE: All Profits From My Album Sales are donated to Charity.

The latest release by John McGrail finds our hero exploring new territory musically and lyrically. The political is still there in bits. Don’t expect that to go anywhere anytime soon. After all what do you expect a man in love to write about—love of course. A man pissed off about the direction his country is going.... well you can probably figure what he would write about.

This time round there is more. Prejudice, religion, aging, despair, even love! Yes even love. All pretty happy things. Then again life while good, is not a bowl of sherry, or scotch or even Guinness, so don’t expect it to just roll out in front of you with everything just as you wished, all warm and fuzzy. Things don’t always go the way you want them to. Roll with it. It could be worse. It could be much worse. If you don’t live in Bagdad be thankful, if you have enough to eat, be thankful, if you have a roof over your head be thankful. If you have friends who love and care about you... well you get the drift. This music may be more about the stain than the bliss.

Ahhh...Stained Bliss.

What is meant by that? A happiness that is tainted. A good life with imperfections.
Stained Bliss.

A beautiful world where your leaders scare you into submission. A beautiful world that makes you angry. A beautiful world filled with prejudice and hate. A cold world an impersonal world. A world that ain’t really paying attention.

A world filled with failure and disappointment. When you want to do good but fail. When you are cast down and discarded. What do you do when you are at the end of your rope.

Where do you turn in a world such as this. If you could only get out of it... if only. But you go on and on and on.

Stained Bliss.

And the world continues to do its best to explode and destroy itself. There are those who are near you who love you and whom you love, they keep you strong and help you continue on. Although deep down you are afraid that nothing ever changes.

Stained Bliss.

Still you keep on knowing that to quit... is to fail. Something must be right for you continue on. In fact much is right even though much is wrong. It is beautiful and yet there is that other side, the dark side. There are the people you can’t live without and then all the others.

Stained Bliss.

In the long run it’s worth the effort isn’t it?????? Stained Bliss.

In his home town of Cleveland they call him a folkie. Is that really accurate. Sure when he performs in concert it is predominantly an acoustic guitar and his voice but does that make it folk music? Is the opening cut “All Our Fallen Tears” a folk song or “One By One” or “You”?. Since when have power chords been part of the folk music scene? Yes there are songs that might fall into that medium. Delicate songs like “Don’t Make Me Stay” or “To His Knees” or “All Stays the Same”. Perhaps the socio-political nature of some of the songs like “Aryan Nation Man” and others would be of a folk leaning but when the song is in 5/4 time what does it become then? Can you see Woody Guthrie or Pete Seeger or Bob Dylan playing this stuff? Probably not. So is it folk?? Who folking knows and does it really folking matter. Not to John. He just wants to make his music. He will do it the way he wants. He will make it so it sounds the way he wants it to sound. At that point he hopes the world will appreciate it. If it doesn’t well, he may be disappointed, but his life is no worse for the effort. An artist has to make one’s art, regardless of medium, and then hope for the best. If one does that then one can be happy.

John McGrail Stained Bliss

On his latest disc, singer/songwriter/guitarist John McGrail weaves strands of rootsy folk-rock, blues and country with twittering percussion, droning guitars, ambient sounds and eerie, often heavily processed vocals. He covers some adventurous sonic terrain here, roughing up or expanding upon relatively simple melodies, sparse arrangements and raw production, and mixing them in unexpected ways to create an edgy sound on tunes that deal with sober topics ranging from racism to aging and death. "All Our Fallen Tears" opens with a flurry of sound effects before resolving into the song. The disorienting "Anger" juxtaposes violent lyrics with an almost deadpan vocal, plush harmonies and delicate music. Rattling percussion gives "One by One" a noisy bounce until it wraps up with some quiet acoustic guitar. Other songs feel positively ancient. The stark, a cappella "I'll Not Be Fulfilled" feels like a newly discovered traditional mountain ballad and "90 Year Old Man" exudes a mournful blues vibe. — Anastasia Pantsios, The Cleveland Free Times

Stained Bliss John McGrail MindFry

What does one make of the title to John McGrail's latest disc, Stained Bliss? From the artist's mouth: "A happiness that is tainted. A good life with imperfections." Works for us and, apparently, for the host of characters who wander through McGrail's dusty tales. The singer-songwriter and guitar maestro entwines experimental flair and indie-rock pathos with jangly folk rock, greasy blues and haymaking country on this winner. But like his compatriot Susan Weber, McGrail is not content to stop there, making those styles hauntingly ethereal. The bluesy "90-Year-Old Man," "Fallen Angel" and plaintive "To His Knees" definitely have the ghosts of others in them; the jangly warmth of "All Our Fallen Tears" feels like an old friend and a campfire in September and "Anger," which offers decidedly lo-fi indie-folk vibe with its nods to Dylan and Ochs...? Well, it offers numbness in the face of stark, raving violence. Credit where it's due… this is a great, chilling recording from someone who has managed to stay below the radar in Cleveland. To be fair, McGrail isn't for everyone... but when a songwriter makes you wonder if it's his heart or the blood from someone else's on his sleeve, well, that's gotta be worth something.

From Cool Cleveland Managing Editor Peter Chakerian

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