Although he’s only 30 years-old, fingerstyle guitarist Andy McKee fondly recalls the freedom of carefree youthful exuberance on Joyland, his sixth album and debut for the Razor & Tie label that will be released April 6th. McKee produced the ten-song collection of newly recorded material in his recently assembled Topeka, Kansas home studio.
While the recordings are primarily solo acoustic guitar tracks, this is the first record on which he incorporated additional instrumentation to a few cuts. In addition to the CD, the package includes a 75-minute DVD consisting of a McKee documentary, interview and performance footage, and instructional segments for the songs “Joyland” and “Never Grow Old.”
McKee composed eight songs for Joyland and recorded new versions of the Tears For Fears hit, “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” and the late acoustic guitar innovator Michael Hedges’ “Layover,” the later of whom remains McKee’s biggest influence. The title track, on which the guitarist also plays the glockenspiel, opens the collection with a cascading quixotic melody that establishes a wide-eyed sense of wonder. McKee taps and slaps rhythmically amidst a gently flowing melody on “Blue Liquid.”
His hand-built 12-string harp guitar leads the spiraling “Away,” a cut to which McKee added depth and emotion with a cello performance. McKee played guitar and bass, and drummer Shawn Pelton added the rollicking pitter-patter to “Never Grow Old,” another piece inspired by McKee’s desire to “remain the same ridiculous guy I’ve always been.” You can almost feel the ascension while listening to “Upward Mobility.” On “Hunter’s Moon,” potent melodic swatches intertwine with complex poly-rhythmic beats and ambient tones. “My Life As A CPA (Parallel Universe #43)” is a contemplative rumination of how different life would have been if the author hadn’t picked up the guitar as a teenager. A beautiful ballad, “For Now” closes the album with poetic eloquence.