Friday, July 27, 2007

I came across a magazine article recently and thought I should re-print it here as it is way better than I could ever express the mystery of Michael McDermott. Credit goes to Marty, the author.

Once in a lifetime, you have an experience that changes your life as a music fan. I had such an experience when I discovered Chicagoan rock singer Michael Mc Dermott playing the songclub in the town of Wexford on the south coast of Ireland in the Fall of 2005. It was the greatest experience of my life as a music fan, writes Marty Mc Cool.
The songwriting prowess of Michael Mc Dermott has been compared to such greats as Bono, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Jackson Browne, Paul Brady and Van Morrison. However, the music of Michael Mc Dermott needs comparison to no-one because he is very much his own man and has forged a unique identity for himself by writing searingly honest songs and taking his listeners to places that most other artists are afraid to go.
The songs generally traverse heavier subject-matter and Mc Dermott faces up the harder issues in life with an honesty that is rare in the music world: issues such as fear, guilt, love, loss, friendship, parting and reconciliation are faced head-on with both courage and hope. Given the heavy-duty nature of many Michael Mc Dermott’s songs, it is no surprise to learn that he is actually Stephen King’s favourite singer.
The song lyrics traverse a broad range of moodscapes, varying from the sublimely poetic (“Dimlit dreams dance in darkened doorways, while the scent lingers of a crescent moon goodbye…”) to the ghoulishly morbid (“I wandered all the graveyards of my mind, searching for something true. With each gravestone I realise, I’m not the man for you…”).
At times the spectre of guilt hangs heavily over the songs of Michael Mc Dermott and his struggle with coming to terms with his own Catholic heritage is apparent in songs like ‘One Way To Go’ from his outstanding 2004 album ‘Ashes’:
“Are you embarrassed by your transgressions?
Do you wallow in your guilt?
Will you offer up your confessions?
Of destroying all you’ve built…”

Elsewhere his lyrics deal with the decay and deterioration that is an inescapable part of life, whether it be of flowers (“these sad and lonely flowers, shrivelled by decay”) or relationships (“though the battle’s just begun I feel the damage has been done and I know there’s nothing left that we can repair”).
However the music of Michael Mc Dermott is ultimately redemptive music and, while the songs sometimes take us on a harrowing journey, the singer never leaves the listener without hope that these struggles can be won. Indeed in songs such as ‘One Way To Go’ the message that comes across is that God is the answer, that God is the only way to go in the face of life’s adversity:
“Voice from above, it answers with love.
But are you ready to hear?
There’s only one way to go
One way to go from here…”

Discovering the music of Michael Mc Dermott has also been one of the most important experiences of my life as a Christian. Indeed, some of Michael Mc Dermott’s listeners have come up to the singer and told him how his music helped them to find God. The spiritual power in the music of Michael Mc Dermott is undeniable. His own spiritual struggle is often played out in his songs, such as ‘Darkest Night of All’:

“Jesus I can’t seem to find you here, in the darkest night of all…”

The lyrics are ripe with religious connotations: (“Oh come all ye faithful” “Lead us not into temptation, rather lead us down a road that winds to a righteous path” “Sermons were sung and seven psalms were hung” “I took a drink from the holy fountain” “He noticed he was walking on a Via Dolorosa” “He said for Bethlehem that he was bound”). Indeed one of Michael Mc Dermott’s albums is titled ‘Gethsemane’ and quite a few of his songs could be termed a Garden of Gethsemane experience.
In his epic song ‘The Idler, The Prophet and A Girl Called Rain’ Michael Mc Dermott puts across the message that sometimes we are looking for God/Jesus in faraway places when he is right there with us:

“‘Jesus where is He when you need Him?’ Rain said
And threw a penny into the well.
‘He’s usually’, spoke the Prophet, ‘behind you
And you’re just too dumb to tell’”

Angels are a recurring motif in the songs of Michael Mc Dermott (“Do you hear the sound of angels?” “All I can hear is the sound of angels crying” “It was as if an angel had reappeared to me”). In ‘Leave It Up to the Angels’ Mc Dermott sings that he’s “frightened by the way I feel” and he finishes the song off with an act of faith in the spiritual world:

“I’ve finally realised that the only thing that we can do is to leave it up to the angels…”Raised an Irish-Catholic, Michael Mc Dermott’s songs are stepped in his heritage. The Chicago Tribune once remarked that Mc Dermott’s songs are “redolent with Irish-Catholic imagery.” That this heritage has sometimes been a cross to bear is suggested in these lyrics from ‘Deirdre Dances’:

“Knowing the fruits of my youth have turned rotten
Cuz I don’t know who I’m supposed to be…”

That Michael Mc Dermott wrote a song called ‘Grace of God’ reflects a belief that there is ultimately good in the world and good in all of us – a goodness which can only come from God. This song really cuts to the heart of the human condition and the Christian perception of it:

“Baptized in blood, fire and water
You’re wonderin’ why you’re never feeling clean…”

The lyric “Yeah there but for the grace of God go I” suggests the utter helplessness of humanity without the grace of God. ‘Grace Of God’ is a song that highlights the singer’s uncanny ability to capture the essence of the Christian struggle.
Clearly, listening to his songs, Michael Mc Dermott himself has fallen at times under the crushing burdens of life but the singer’s fortitude and mighty heart comes out in lyrics like:

“So come on and throw your punches
I can take whatever you’ve got to give…”

With Rocky Balboa-like determination, Michael Mc Dermott takes life’s hits like a man, gets up off the deck and comes back for more. In the face of great adversity, Michael Mc Dermott always perseveres and the singer carries a tremendous weight of the world on his shoulders.
In some ways ‘Bells’ is a signature Michael Mc Dermott song and much of Mc Dermott’s heart is revealed at the end of the song in a peroration which constitutes a litany of love for his fellow man and the world:

Ringin’ out from the mountains
Ringin’ out from the valleys
Ringin’ out for my homeland
And the blood in the alley
Ringin’ out for the drunk ones
Ringin’ out for the sober
Ringin’ out for the lover, who knows that its over
Ringin’ out for the hungry
Ringin’ out for the homeless
Ringin’ out for the righteous
Ringin’ out for the hopeless
Ringin’ out in the blackness
Ringin’ out for the soldier
Ringin’ out for the future, waitin’ over your shoulder
Ringin’ out for the sinner
Singin’ out for the accuser
Ringin’ out for the winner
Ringin’ out for the loser
Ringin’ out for the orphan
And the disbeliever
Ringin’ out for the honest
And the deceiver
Ringin’ out for me
Ringin’ out for you

Such lyrics reveal the beauty of Michael Mc Dermott’s soul and the singer’s capacity for empathy with those who are downtrodden and troubled set him apart as a Johnny Cash-type figure (yes, he also sings clad in black but with crosses dangling from his neck).
Artists – especially songwriters – tend to have a highly sensitive disposition and this is certainly the case with Michael Mc Dermott. The song ‘Lantern’ shows how the singer sees past his own troubles to reach out to a soul-in-jeopardy:

“If I had a map, I'd guide your troubled path
If I had a smile, I'd lend you mine to laugh
If I had a treasure, you know just what I'd do
If I had a lantern, I'd light the way for you…”

Michael Mc Dermott has experienced both the highest heights and the deepest depths in life as evidenced in these lyrics from ‘Around the World’:

“I think that I have met some prophets
And I’ve befriended the very lowest of the low.
For a while there I was a rich man
Now I haven’t even a seed that I could sow…”

But Michael Mc Dermott’s quest for answers, redemption and God in his songs is so forthright that hearing his songs (which invariably require multiple playings to digest the message) can provide the listener with the answers they seek in life. The content and delivery of the songs is packed with emotional punch and spiritual power – sometimes the singer practically cries out the lyrics. His hope for a better world in the face of desperation is evidenced in ‘Hellfire in the Holy Land’:

“Come tomorrow symphony of peace
Come tomorrow when you’re on your knees…”

One of Michael Mc Dermott’s best songs is ‘A Wall I Must Climb’ and, perhaps better than any other song, this one best sums up the singer’s journey. In each verse, the singer faces a different wall he must climb:

“Faith is a wall I must climb…
Fear is a wall I must climb…
Love is a wall I must climb…
Pain is a wall I must climb…
Doubt is a wall I must climb…
Fate is a wall I must climb…
Belief is a wall I must climb…
I am a wall I must climb…”

Michael Mc Dermott’s personal journey, in which his listeners are privileged to share, is proof that none of these obstacles are insuperable and the abiding message is one of hope.
To many of his fans, Michael Mc Dermott is a messianic figure. I for one have been reduced to tears by the music of Michael Mc Dermott on occasion - this is a singer that has helped me to a better place in life and with God – something which no other musical artist I have listened to has done for me. For that I am forever grateful to him.
When day is done, the world is quiet, you are tired and the only sound you can hear is a Michael Mc Dermott song, an encounter with God becomes possible. In the final analysis, this is redemptive music that can elevate your life out of the ‘Ashes’.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Latest house update is that we exchanged contracts last Wednesday and plan to complete next Thursday if all goes to plan. Feelings of mixed emotions right now - both excited and scared by the prospect of our new home - there is much to arrange and not a lot of time in which to do this as I juggle Norfolk, commuting to London for work and the need to fit in some overdue holiday. Helen is in overall charge, working through what has to be done now so at least there's less room for things to go wrong!

Tomorrow night I may nip down the road to see Peter Gabriel although I will be keeping a close eye on the weather as the car park used at Blickling Hall is a field and I'm not sure even a 4WD will cope with the rain that fell today. I expect the promoters are busy praying for a dry sunny day.

And now I'm off to kill a few more mosquitos so I can go to bed in peace and quiet!

Friday, July 13, 2007

And so the house saga moves on. At the 11th hour I find an insurer who is happy to accept East Dulwich tends to have a lot of properties that have been moving around over the years. We are now waiting to see if the seller is prepared to change their mind and exchange next week. Watch this space...

I've been following the story about two London school girls being arrested in Ghana for drug trafficing. The girls have told police the men gave them the laptop bags.

Taken from the BBC's website:

One of the girls told Channel 4 News on Thursday night they were tricked into carrying drugs to London.
Speaking by telephone from prison in Accra, she said: "There were basically two boys over here who gave us two bags and told us... it was an empty bag
"We never thought anything bad was inside... and they told us to go to the UK and drop it off to some boy... at the airport."
"It was basically like a set-up. They didn't tell us nothing, we didn't think nothing, 'cos basically we are innocent.
"We don't know nothing about this drugs and stuff."

I find this a fascinating story. Someone pays an all expenses holiday to Ghana, you tell your parents you are off to France, and all for collecting a couple of empty computer bags. My advice is next time go to PC World and buy them there - avoids an awful lot of hastle and accusations of drugs running.

I feel very sorry for the families who suddenly find themselves caught up in this kind of event. I guess there is so much parents don't know about their children (and possibly would prefer not to know).

Thursday, July 12, 2007

You may have noticed that my blogging of late has been a bit on the quiet side. The reason is that we have been very busy at home putting together a major project for us, namely, moving home. For those who know us well, you will understand why moving house is not a simple task as there are many restrictions in terms of what will work well with Helen. So we jumped at the chance to buy a house locally in East Dulwich that gave us what we needed - much more space, an amazing location, off-street parking as a future option, and most of all, we could just about afford it. Not everything was perfect but we knew it would be very difficult to have another opportunity like this in the future. Our offer was accepted and the last 2 months have been spent sorting out finances, works to be done, putting current house on a buy-to-let and so on. And the 11th hour as we are ready to exchange contracts we discover that we cannot get buildings insurance as there is concern about previous ground movement (as there is with most older properties in East Dulwich). We finally got hold of the seller's own insurance details at the end of last week but despite requests at the outset for them to get their insurer to investigate what had caused the movement, they have always refused, making it impossible now for us to get cover. And now, because of the delays we have been told that the seller is to take the property off the market, do some quick fix work and then look to re-sell again, presumably hoping that next time round it gets the all clear. For us it is a major disappointment, not to mention a small fortune spent on surveys, solicitors, and broking fees. So if anybody is out there looking for a mortgage at the moment I've got a couple going spare!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


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