Review: Danny Newcomb — ‘Mackerel Sky’

Danny Newcomb (Shadow, Goodness, The Rockfords, The Sugarmakers) wasn’t planning to write/record so soon after 2019’s Steal The World, but after news of a family member’s diagnosis with a terminal illness, Newcomb opted to channel the feelings which emerged. 

He began writing Mackerel Sky on his father-in-law’s 1963 Martin D35 12-string and was immediately struck by its bell-like sound. Newcomb’s speakeasy voice partners with this acoustic ring, while the live-like recording graces some of Newcomb’s best songwriting to date. The instant, “Save Me Like Wine” opens the record in a melody marinade, giving each verse and chorus a lasting bite. “Tonight Forever”, is wistful, yet gentle like a lullaby as it dances between the enchanted and next chapter. The aforementioned illness shadows Newcomb’s brightly playing and narration. 

While not specifically linked to the above subject matter, Mackerel Sky carries an emotional shift woven throughout. Newcomb’s inclusion of Erin Rubin on grand piano and background vocals aids in this feel. Rubin’s larger than life playing on “Dawn in Japan” interweaves melody and Newcomb’s floating charm. Her playing scratches perfection as Newcomb’s pause and startups link a seamless Springsteen thread. “Golden”, another piano gift, sweaters Newcomb’s tenor and generous harmonies from Rubin. Without drums to build from and momentum gains to leap with, Newcomb’s voice and Rubin’s textures do the heavy lifting with openness and ease.

While many songs elevate within their own lyrical givings and melodies, standout “Chase The Dark”, seems serendipitously linked to our current, COVID pauses. Evoking a Jayhawks/Gary Louris lure, Newcomb sings his heart out, despite the darkness, championing his range and deep pockets of storytelling from a truly honest place. 

Although this solo endeavor embodies a different aesthetic for Newcomb, you’d be hard pressed not to find a rock ‘n’ roll pulse. As a flirting troubadour and part-time parishioner of Americana, he captures a blue collar spark above his folk and rock style sensibilities. Regardless of instrumentation, Newcomb sounds energized, joyous, and authentic in his need to sing.

Throughout Mackerel Sky, Newcomb’s tangible, image-filled lyrics magnetize the record’s singable and melodic qualities, gifting a record which fits the everyday. Neighborhood walks, early mornings at the table, prepping a garden, even wearing a mask to the grocery store all seem to benefit from Newcomb’s kind approach. It’s as if he’s wanting to share this exact moment with those who pass by. Those who pause, are better for it.

(Click HERE to pre-order Mackerel Sky.) 

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