Michael O’Neal latest CD Release

| September 27, 2018 | Reply

First appeared in print in Paris News, Sept. 21, 2018 edition. Story and photos by Mary Jane Farmer

Michael O’Neal, taken at Love & War in Texas when he won the Rusty Wier singer/songwriter contest.Story and photos by Mary Jane Farmer. First printed in Paris News, Sept. 21, 2018

Listening to Michael O’Neal’s latest recording project, Live at Heritage Hall, is like listening about the history of Paris all rolled up in the characters that built this Paris singer/songwriter.

There’s “Ms. Elsie,” and everyone has a Ms. Elsie in his past, the ‘other grandmother’ who helped mold him; there’s his granddaddy who lived “50 Miles” from the family; there’s his new song, “Hill 438,” a song that emerged from O’Neal’s love of history and respect for America’s warriors; and family — oh my goodness, so many songs about family, such as “Ode to Love” about his 4-year-old daughter’s softball game.

O’Neal and Heritage Hall owner JoKyle Varner made plans for a year before recording, and O’Neal said he especially wanted to record it there because the venue, originally a railroad station, because, simply put, “The room has great sound.” That’s a truism. And he brought up Rambling Creek Studio from Austin to record it, but then wasn’t finished with the plans… he hired Mental Media from Ada to film the entire night’s show.

Oh, and just to name-drop here… the only other musician on this recording is steel guitar picker Geoff Queen. Queen, as other jacket junkies like me know, plays regularly with such Texas stars as Hayes Carll and Bruce Robison. He adds more melody and interest with that one guitar than many complete bands can add. He also plays mandolin and probably a few more instruments — that’s what multi-instrumentalists do. But for this, it was steel guitar and more steel guitar. Couldn’t get any better than that!

Now, the CD has 14 songs on it, along with intro, or the story that led into the song. But wait, there’s more, as the infomercials always declare. There were about 40 tracks, including the stories, recorded that night. The CD package has a DVD that includes every single song. “But a CD only holds 74 minutes, so I couldn’t put them all there,” O’Neal said. All 40 tracks are also streamed on Apple Music, iTunes, and the other streaming sites. So, it’s a win-win, whether you buy the collection from O’Neal’s Website, listed below, since you get the DVD along with it, or whether you listen to it Online.

O’Neal isn’t a traditional singer in the traditional sense of the word. Instead, he qualifies more as a talking blues singer, at least on this project, in the style of many of Woody Guthrie’s songs, or Bob Dylan who was such an influence on O’Neal that Michael has written “A Bob Dylan Song.” Talking blues probably began in the 1920, and Guthrie used that form in the early 1940s with “Talking Dust Bowl Blues” and his son Arlo recorded “Alice’s Restaurant” in the style. O’Neal is keeping it alive, well, and viable in the 21st Century.

And speaking of influences, one who is familiar with the late Guy Clark can hear Guy’s influence on Michael, too. Like Clark, O’Neal can say ‘I love you’ in other words, for instance in his tribute his late friend “Ode to JW” and the scars he carries from their friendship — “I got scars, all over me. Just reminders of when we were wild and free. He give me this one on my shoulder. He give me this one on my chin. He give me one across my heart, almost done me in.”

Many of the songs in this collection, O’Neal said, were written over his nearly-two decades of songwriting and recording. “Hill 438” is his newest, and “Soul Shine” may be one of his first ones, cut on his 2006 CD of the same name. And so many in between.

Michael O’Neal said he’ll have the new CD available at all his gigs — at least “til I run out of them.”

For more information or to order Live at Heritage Hall, go Online to: www.MichaelONealMusic.com





Category: *- Features, - CD Reviews

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