Megon McDonough, |
Anyone who first encountered Megon McDonough in the '70s as a singer-songwriter (back when her name was spelled Megan) or in the '90s as a member of Christine Lavin's Bitchin' Babes is likely to be disappointed by this 1990 release. The nut of the problem here is that the production by Steve Rashid saddled most of the songs with sappy arrangements that sound like they were meant to be performed on a television variety show. After listening to this disc, it should have been no surprise to learn that after releasing several singer-songwriter albums in the '70s, McDonough spent most of the '80s doing television and commercial work, with American Girl representing her return to the recording industry.
The best tracks on this disc are probably the ones that try to emulate the sound of Judy Collins' classic albums of the late '60s and early '70s. These songs use either the classical-sounding piano, the pedal-steel guitar flavoring, similar subject matter, or a little of each. As Collins did, McDonough also serves up a Beatles cover, "I'm Looking Through You," which gets the full Carol Burnett show treatment. Even listeners unfamiliar with the original Beatles version will cringe at the westward-ho bouncy harmonica arrangement that sounds like it was borrowed from "And When I Die" by Blood Sweat & Tears. The title track's refrain, "Well I want red boots, white roses and a blue-eyed man to dance with me, then I'll travel the world, an American Girl, and think what it means to be free," really just left me wanting to hear Trisha Yearwood's "XXX's and OOO's (An American Girl)."
"Soon Enough" may be the most listenable song on the record, with a nice bass and acoustic guitar mix and strong vocals by McDonough, who shows that she's got the pipes to sing full bore country music if she chose to. "But Not Tonight" is a nicely written song, but it features more wimpy harmonica and, like most of this record, is hampered by the lame production. In a reversal of sorts, "Big Blue River" has a fairly credible arrangement in a jazzy blues style, but the song is done in by insipid lyrics; "I feel like a little boat on the big blue river of life" indeed.
With better production, these songs might have rendered a better sounding record. Unfortunately, what we have here at best is lightweight pop with a slight hint of country, sort of like Anne Murray with bad arrangements. American Girlsounds like what might pass for pop music on television or Broadway. This is definitely for major fans or McDonough completists only.
[ by William Kates ]