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Portsmouth 'filksinger' gets a little help from his friends

John McDaid releases geek-inflected debut album, ‘Trail of Mars’

Posted 9/21/20

PORTSMOUTH — John McDaid had just started working on a solo acoustic album when music venues shut for the pandemic. With musicians facing tough economic times, he re-envisioned the project …

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Please support local news coverage –

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Portsmouth 'filksinger' gets a little help from his friends

John McDaid releases geek-inflected debut album, ‘Trail of Mars’

Posted

PORTSMOUTH — John McDaid had just started working on a solo acoustic album when music venues shut for the pandemic. With musicians facing tough economic times, he re-envisioned the project and reached out to the folk community.

"I was able to work with musicians who would normally be tied up playing gigs every night," said Mr. McDaid, "But during the lockdown, they were uncommonly generous with their time, and we worked together to create something really amazing. They're not songs about the pandemic, but they definitely speak to where we find ourselves today."

"Trail Of Mars" is the debut studio album by Mr. McDaid, a local singer-songwriter who plays his own geek-inflected brand of folk, or “filk” — a sub-genre of folk music that draws on influences from the world of speculative fiction. (Mr. McDaid is nominated for “writer/composer" in this year's Pegasus Awards, which recognize excellence in filk music worldwide.)

He’s performed everywhere from New York City’s Folk City to Common Fence Music in Portsmouth (where he won the first-ever Community Hoot in February) to the 2019 World Science Fiction Convention in Dublin. 

The New York Times called him “​a mischievous guitarist and vocalist with a gift for the inimitable phrase.” With a lyrical sensibility that draws on his experience as an award-winning science fiction writer, he brings a critical eye to mediated political reality, social justice, and current events in the 10 songs on "Trail Of Mars."

"Trail Of Mars" was recorded, mixed, and mastered by Mark Dann, who's recorded folk and rock heavyweights such as Ray Charles, Garth Hudson, Steve Forbert, and Ellis Paul. (Mr. Paul helped him wordsmith two of the tunes, "Down To The River" and "into Thin Air.” The latter has a local hook, since it was written for the R.I. Songwriters In The Round at AS220.)

Behind the drums is Eric Parker, who recorded and toured with Steve Winwood, Joe Cocker, and Bonnie Raitt. On bass is Red Molly's Craig Akin. Also from Red Molly, Abbie Gardner brings her fiery dobro and backing vocals to two tracks and Laurie MacAllister adds her signature background vocal on one. Tracy Grammer, of the well-known duo with Dave Carter, adds violin and vocals on three tracks. On electric guitar and mandolin is Jim Henry, the in-demand session player and multi-instrumentalist.

The album spans a broad range of styles, from a spare 12-bar blues ("The Bottom Line") to straight-up Americana ("Down To The River") to alt-folk ("Virus: A Heresy") to guitar-driven folk-rock ("Trail Of Mars"). But at the core of each are Mr. McDaid's penetrating, dense, and finely crafted lyrics.

You can stream the single “Lost In Translation” here.

The album is available on all major platforms (iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, etc.) on or about Oct. 2, depending on Covid-19 delays.

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