Story and Photos By Andy ArgyrakisWhen Edwin McCain befriended Hootie and the Blowfish during that band's peak period, the burgeoning artist not only scored several opening gigs, but was also led to a contract with Lava/Atlantic Records. Throughout his four-album tenure with the conglomerate, the singer/songwriter became a teenage heartthrob and mushy balladeer, pushing songs like "I'll Be," "I Could Not Ask For More" and "Solitude" (originally cut with Hootie's annoyingly gravely front man Darius Rucker) straight up to the top of prom request lists. Certainly that path was far removed from his more credible indie beginnings, but the money, glamorous touring accommodations and adoring fans must have made up for the merit.
But then without much warning- as it's become common with major label machines- McCain's streak came to a grinding halt following 2001's Far From Over. With sales slipping compared to his past projects and the frustrating trap of corporate consolidation, the troubadour's personal and professional world collapsed taking quite some time to recover. Drinking binges and bummed out moods set in and it wouldn't be until 2003 when he'd pick up enough pieces to pen the acoustic album The Austin Sessions. However, it's his latest full band effort of all new material (Scream and Whisper) that's his official follow-up to Far From Over and it's obvious qualities of joy and wonder have returned to his music making.
When McCain stuck to such cuts in concert, he was much better off than dwelling on the past, simply because this material represents his true soulful and bluesy self, complete with story book lyrics akin to James Taylor or David Wilcox. In the first of a two-night House of Blues stand, he debuted much of the disc, including the recovery-tinged triumph "Turning Around," the swampy strut of "Wild At Heart" and the dream focused scorcher "Shooting Stars." That latter was a hysterical dissection of reality TV shows, co-written with the acclaimed Angie Aparo (also known for penning the ballad "Breathe" which Faith Hill made famous).
Yet the remaining bulk of the performance sagged with McCain's sappy past, including the obligatory gag me with a spoon ballads "I'll Be" and "I Could Not Ask For More," plus the moan and groan of "I've Seen a Love." Sure, the previous chart positions brought casual spectators out to the show, but those who've stood by McCain through thick and thin were likely sick of such soggy sentiments. Even the star himself demonstrated a bit of disdain, shrugging them off with indifference and insipid deliveries. Given that type of behavior and the force behind the Scream and Whisper nuggets, it's apparent that the star's much happier in the current stage of his career and likely to get more respect than the days spent locked under a label's grip.
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