Though he’s been making music for the better part of 25 years, George McConnell has just now released his very first solo album, titled Singles Only. Through a series of records and years of touring with Beanland, Kudzu Kings and Widespread Panic, the Mississippi-bred guitarist has been showing glimpses of his songwriting skills all these years, with influences ranging from R&B to country. We hear that here as well. “In Walked You” is a delicious mid-tempo R&B groove, while “Mr. Cropper” is an unapologetic tribute to Memphis soul.
However, we also see a much broader palette of sonic hues. “Hey Man” marries Allmans-esque twin lead guitar with a reggae bounce, while the sweeping pedal steel of “Veronica Blue” conjures a Deep South brand of cosmic Americana. Throughout, McConnell’s previously obscure penchant for punk rock rears its head, notably on the ferocious “Here We Come Now” and the full-throttle “Compass Lost.”
In those previous outings, McConnell has often been linked to the genre spawned by the Grateful Dead. Indeed, Beanland cut their teeth on Dead covers and Widespread Panic has rightly or wrongly always been considered one of the original jam bands. But on Singles Only we find a more comfortable McConnell basking in a glow more reminiscent of Mick and Keith than Jerry and Bobby. “Goodbye So Long” and “Hollywood Babylon” are both balls-to-the-wall rockers that show less interest in noodling and more insistence on swaggering purpose. One gets the feeling that after all these years, McConnell has finally found real footing in his own element.
The album was conceived as a collection of “singles,” (hence the title) hearkening back to the age of 45 rpm records with an A-side and a B-side. McConnell even went so far as to originally release them in pairs as “virtual 45s” on his website before releasing them all together in CD format, a methodology that has its feet firmly entrenched in both the past and the future, much like the contents found within Singles Only.
Singles Only is out now.