Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Django Mack - ‘Round Christmas

Django Mack - ‘Round Christmas

Performers like Django Mack promise to be among the rare performers tackling traditional popular music who may be capable of bringing something lasting to the genre while remaining faithful to its formulas. The only route to making this happen is through lyrics but, predominantly, the charisma of the songwriter/performer. Mack sings with sound and character that blues fans will certainly embrace, but it isn’t merely some overly dramatic bucket of blood nonsense despite the dirt and gravel in his voice. The two latest releases from Mack, the single “’Round Christmas” and its bonus track “Big Black Dog”, finds him fixed in on the goal of embodying the characters behind each song and doing a bravura job of it. This is exactly the sort of artists that this style of music needs to continue getting heard in our increasingly narrow world.  

His voice is, arguably, the most memorable quality of “’Round Christmas”. Mack’s speaker is a character locked in primal doubt, stripped of all comfort, and afraid to confront the future and his vocal spares no expense in getting us to believe that. It’s this sort of commitment that makes him special. The band turns in a stellar performance with a patient backbeat that brings the song to its peaks with great care while sparkling and often echo-laden guitar thickens the mood. This isn’t a light-hearted tribute to the season. Django Mack wanted to write a song exploring the theme in a different way and really hits it out of the park with the musical and vocal content. 

The words are, likewise, quite memorable. There are a handful of surprising rhymes placed in the song that are really quite bracing and natural. Any lyricist who can write an intelligent, lucid text that doesn’t seem like a bunch of individual lines sewn together deserves notice, but his skills are a step above that. 

“Big Black Dog” pops and rolls with woozy and bluesy rambunctiousness. Django Mack commands this track with every ounce of the authority he brought to bear on “’Round Christmas”, but he manifests it in a different way. Instead of playing up the comedic aspects of the lyric, Mack’s delivery is steady but low-key and never overemphasizes the song’s sad sack humor. The piano really drives things hard and takes off even faster with its brief instrumental breaks. The lyric is much simpler than its counterpart on the single, but there’s still the same guiding intelligence that saves this from sounding like a rote rework.  

Django Mack’s music will, undoubtedly, continue gaining a wider and wider audience. Tracks like “’Round Christmas” and its companion track will guarantee that. He has style to burn, but there’s genuine musical and lyrical substance between his compelling turns on each of these tracks. It’s equally for sure that he hasn’t even come close to his peak and will continue growing from here into, potentially, one of the transformative figures that the genre has needed for a number of years.  

Scott Wigley

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