Michael McArthur “Oh Sedona”/”How to Fall in Love” (Independent, 2020)

With release dates that are only weeks apart, Michael McArthur has conjured up a mighty fine pair of acoustic EPs and luckily for the reviewer who has to squeeze this duo into a single review, both ‘Oh Sedona’ and ‘How to Fall in Love’ are immensely enjoyable, making this task a hugely pleasurable one.  Both EP’s feature new tracks as well as solo acoustic versions from the highly regarded 2019 LP, ‘Ever Green, Ever Rain’.  These are deeply reflective releases for McArthur, with the title track on  ‘Oh Sedona’ being particularly poignant, singing as he does about the recent loss of his grandmother and the difficulty of coming to terms with being unable to hold a celebration of her life due to restrictions resulting from the COVID 19 pandemic.

The only other track on ‘Oh Sedona’ that doesn’t originate from ‘Ever Green, Ever Rain’ is an unexpectedly empathetic and moving cover of ‘Purple Rain’  which, thankfully, doesn’t attempt to be too clever by deviating hugely from Prince’s original classic with McArthur managing to display a surprisingly wide vocal range throughout the 4 minutes and 17 seconds it took him to cover the track.  Like all the tracks on these EPs’, ‘Oh Sedona’ ends with a live solo take of ‘Elaine’ and the atmosphere and sense of intimacy he generates is just captivating as he describes the joy and the pain, we all go through in both our day to day lives and our relationships.  It’s a fitting end to this 5 track EP.

The lockdown period has evidently had an impact on McArthur and he has clearly missed playing to a live audience and both ‘Oh Sedona’ and ‘How to Fall in Love’, recorded one-take live as they were, is an attempt to recreate that sense of audience proximity as McArthur explains, “Since we are unable to come together in concert, I’ve formed and shaped what has been a lifeline for me, and I’m tossing it out to the world, for those who need a hand. Performed in the way that I wrote them, there’s something about the uncovering of a song that invites you to reach down a little deeper. To listen with both ears. To be at ease.  That’s the reason for these one-take live performances. With complete humanity intact, it’s essential to the integrity of the songs and their purpose, that they be revealed in their most fundamental form. The only way to relate is through honesty.

The simple paired back arrangements allow the beauty of McArthur’s voice, a constant strength throughout these EPs,  to envelope you and lure you into his world.  The second of these EPs to be released ‘How to Fall in Love’ may actually be the slightly better of the two with ‘Warmer Months’ and ‘Ever  Green, Ever Rain’ both being totally engrossing but the title track, in particular, is a simply beautiful description of love found, love almost lost only to be found again and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more moving track, not just on this pair of Michael McArthur EPs, but on any other musical release this year.

A pair of EPs overflowing with powerful and extraordinarily moving music
9/10

Author: Jim Finnie

Resident of the frozen NE of Scotland, with a penchant for climbing high mountains and exploring crazy countries that others avoid. I also sorta like music.

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