Chuck McCabe,
Creature of Habit
(BlahBlahWoofWoof, 2008)

Chuck McCabe's music is like a visit with an old friend, the ones up for at visit at 3 a.m. with no warning. Unpretentious, familiar and relaxed, but always insightful and entertaining even when times are rough, McCabe's folksy blues -- or is it bluesy folk? -- pulls out a comfortable chair and a pitcher of something strong from the first chords.

McCabe's music is politically aware without being politically aligned. His songs are always for ideals, while being solidly against idealogy; about people, the ordinary sort of people that most of us know and are. "Creature of Habit" and the beach-accented "Goodbye to Lahaina" are anthems for every heart and town left bleeding by the cutting edge of progress, whether personal or external. "Contractor" gives the construction workers and ditch diggers their due accolades without irony or sentiment. "Holidaze" hides a gleeful cynicism about the festive season inside a warm sentimental tune, making it a perfect stealth ballad for a party playlist. There's a fair bit of politicizing here, but it's mixed with so much humor it's hard to object.

"All Figured Out" is like being cornered by a friendly conspiracy theorist, one so friendly and inclusive it's hard to know whether to run until it's too late. And the "Partisan Polka" breaks down all those important divisions, like the horrible war of Coke and Pepsi people, into the most danceable form.

The most dangerous song on the album, though, may be the utterly apolitical and seemingly harmless "Meats in a Can." A cheerful little ditty about the glories of, well, meats in a can, it seems like harmless fun, until you burst out singing it at a tense moment during the family reunion. And find you remember all the verses.

Above all, Creature of Habit is about humans -- loving them, cursing them and above all being one of them. It's a habit none of us seem able to shake, and the wonderful thing about Chuck McCabe is that he can remind us why.

review by
Sarah Meador

2 January 2010

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