CD Review of I Don’t Need You Now by Fergus McCormick
Recommended if you like
Lloyd Cole, Alexi Murdoch,
David Gray
Label
(self-released)
Fergus McCormick:
I Don’t Need You Now

Reviewed by Jeff Giles

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T
he loveliest set of acoustic Irish ballads ever to be written by a man from Flemington, New Jersey, Fergus McCormick’s I Don’t Need You Now is a treasure waiting to be unearthed by the NPR crowd – 14 delicately woven strands of spun gold, suspended in amber and framed with McCormick’s aching, honey-coated voice. To look at him, you wouldn’t think he was more than a year or two out of college, but musically – from the quiet strength of his arrangements to the battle-scarred weariness of his lyrics to the “Side One” and “Side Two” that cut the album’s track listing in half – he sounds like he’s always been here.

In truth, I Don’t Need You Now is only the third release for the Brooklyn resident, and though he’s managed to build a local following through appearances at venues such as the Knitting Factory and Arlene’s Grocery, this album has all the makings of a richly deserved turning point in McCormick’s career. It’s baffling that McCormick is label-free – or that his bio still includes “sold upwards of 1000 copies” as a career achievement – but good music is good music no matter how many people hear it, and these songs are superb.

Producer/multi-instrumentalist Mike Davis proves a perfect foil for McCormick, cradling the album in a bed of sun-kissed acoustic guitars, clean, dry drums, and a small army of tasteful touches, including Wurlitzer, harmonica, strings, and various bits of percussion. He keeps things busy enough to avoid stereotypically boring dude-with-a-guitar territory, but never loses focus of the songs – all of which more than withstand the scrutiny.

Really, there aren’t any duds here; even a tossed-off-sounding goof like “Mother Nature’s Child” serves a purpose, bridging the listener from the frail beauty of “7 Flights” to the opening track of “Side Two,” the gently plangent “New York.” McCormick spent two years on the album, and it shows – each song feels as natural as breathing. It’d make a lousy soundtrack for a long drive down the interstate, but try sitting down with a pair of headphones and I Don’t Need You Now, and see if you aren’t swept away by its charms.

Fans of the David Gray/Josh Ritter/Alexi Murdoch school of singer/songwriter will be among the easiest targets for this album, but anyone with a soft spot for confessional lyrics and spare arrangements should find a lot to love here. We live in the era of mind-bogglingly large music libraries – and a dwindling supply of moments with which to enjoy them – but with I Don’t Need You Now, Fergus McCormick has given listeners the perfect excuse to step out of the new-music stream and spend some actual time with an album. In fact, you may even need to start making excuses not to listen to it.

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