North Carolina based folk singer Rob Mc Hale’s albums are consistently well turned out, both in musical content, cover design and packaging. Mc Hale is very much a disciple of his fellow Statesman Woody Guthrie and his songs follow a similar trail, with the emphasis often on the environment and equality. The thirteen tracks on the album are all self-written with the exception of Willie Dixon’s Little Red Rooster, which is given a makeover and presented in a delightfully lazy J.J.Cale type delivery. A follower of Guthrie McHale may be, but his musical style often has more in common with British Folk than closer to his home State.
Up to fifteen instruments and ten players were employed in the recording altogether including Mc Hale’s regular players, his brother Pat who adds harmonica and his guitar player Mike Alicke. Four female vocalists also contribute.
The striking streetscape cover painting by David Merck depicts a rundown town with an animated bearded bible wielding evangelist preaching to a group of people, while around the corner a lady of the night invites custom from a passing motorist and a presumably dead body lies on the pavement. A couple of yards down the street a guitarist (possibly Mc Hale) sits busking on the street.
Standout tracks are the breezy opener Common Ground, the gentle tribute song Woody’s Shoes and When I’m With, a rocky closer that bookends the album.
– Declan Culliton, Lonesome Highway