Although the shadow of The Mahones may be hard to escape this solo excursion is a worthwhile addition to his musical legacy.
McConnell has released his first solo album after more than 30 years as front-man for the Mahones, a Canadian folk/punk/rock cherished band. The songs on the album are a mix of originals and covers of songs which have great meaning to him. McConnell has always had a twinkle in his eyes and a sense of Celtic romance which is evident in this live recording made on St Patrick’s Day 2021 in Toronto, Canada.
‘The Dark Streets of Love’ opens with his rendition of ‘Atlantic City’ and his interpretation of the Bruce Springsteen song is as full of weariness and regret as the original. McConnell’s version of ‘A Pair of Brown Eyes’ is a straightforward cover of the Pogues’ song but ‘Pale Blue Eyes’ shows his ability to make the song his own with the spirit of Lou Reed looking appreciatively over his shoulders grudgingly nodding along. ‘Fiddlers Green’ is an emotional listen for anyone who loved Gord Downie (lead singer of The Tragically Hip) and continues to feel his loss. McConnell presents the song (which is already heart-breaking as it was written about the early death of Downie’s Sister’s child from cancer) as a tribute to his friend and fellow musician in an understated but heartfelt manner.
The Mahones’ songs which McConnell has included demonstrate his skills as a lyricist with themes of love, longing and separation well represented. ‘New York’ is a raucous rocker where McConnell shows he can snarl with the best of them. ‘Someone Save Me’ is a love letter writ large, ‘Back Home’ a rousing Celtic anthem feels appropriate given the times we are living in recounting friendships and missing the feeling of being home. The song always brings on a personal feeling of homesickness and memories of the joyous occasions of dancing and singing along to the Mahones over the years.
‘The Dark Streets of Love’ is a good introduction to McConnell’s music which deserves wider appreciation and will find a place in the heart of those who are already fans of The Mahones.