Equal parts Tom Waits, Professor Longhair, Warren Zevon and Randy Newman, Texas-based pianist and singer-songwriter Harvey McLaughlin brings a bizarre set of tunes, zany attitude, and plenty of sarcasm on his second solo outing Rascality. McLaughlin is at heart a roots-rocker with punk sensibilities who seems less interested in musical mastery than in creating thematic works. His piano and guitar playing are just part of the overall effect. He jokingly says, “I want to play the piano the way Link Wray plays the guitar.”
Thematically the album draws from McLaughlin’s fascination with Chinese restaurants, carnival excursions, red pyramids of Mars, and his favorite subjects like ghosts and the gallows. About his previous album, Tabloid News, he said, “I’ve made a career out of writing about dragons, ghost trains, dodo birds, banshee queens, chupacabras, and other such quasi-cryptic conundrums that seem to populate the fringes of our collective news consciousness…” For Rascality McLaughlin offers, “I made an effort to cover all the basics. Wendigos, voodoo hexes, fortune telling moles and public executions, it’s all there.”
McLaughlin hails from a blue-collar neighborhood of San Antonio and some recordings were done there as well as at Dale Watson’s Ameripolitan Studio in Austin. The juxtaposition of a semi-industrial area and nearby Air Force bases made a huge impression on him growing up and he drew inspiration from the ghost stories and urban lore that characterizes the city. His tracks are originals, a mix of rocking piano with R&B and Chicano soul stylings that sometimes venture into some vintage sounds. McLaughlin primarily plays piano but also handles the organ, acoustic guitar and banjo. He is joined by percussionist Chadwick Gonzales, bassist Joseph Slocum, electric guitarist Andrea Santillan Wood, reedist Leila Louise Henley, cellist Kiana Burciaga, and backing vocalists Amanda Vega and Nikky Rivera, all of whom combine to create a raucous session that fit these crazy songs with titles such as “Outhouse Crescent Moon” and “Ghastly Graham Ingels,” to name just two.
Mostly this is all in good fun as these little nuggets on the album jacket and liners attest to.
-“What you now hold in your damp hands is the follow up, a hazardous cocktail of pre-war R&B and proto-rock n’ roll entitled ‘Rascality’. Over the course of 12 songs McLaughlin spins a tense series of yarns designed ot romance and hypnotize your aural openings with tales to beckon you into his orbit of mad comic imagery.” -Coodreaux “Coody” Gold – Owner and Chief Talent Scout – The Gold Standard Agency of Amarillo
-“Certain sound frequencies have been known to cure such ailments as nipple impotence, cauliflower toe and red wee. All those frequencies are here on this album.” – Troy Wayne Delco – The Beaumonts
-“IF the Americans had a royal family Harvey McLaughlin would be the soundtrack of their yacht wrecks and sex scandals.” – Count Vaseline – Exiled Irish Noble and Musician
Rarely has fiction sounded more inviting. Seriously, this writer can add little to those sterling accolades. When you put it all together, the number of artists that echo through this material run from Waits to Zevon to the ‘70s cheesy pop of Elton John mixed with New Orleans piano heroes and McLaughlin’s own heroes from the ‘50s -Big Joe Turner and Jerry Lee Lewis. Suggest you pull out the booklet and follow the lyrics upon your first listen. This is some crazy stuff.
- Jim Hynes