Second Chances by Singer/Songwriter John McDonough
John McDonough has taken a chance with the acoustic record, Second Chances, and from first impressions, it’s paid off. Featuring 10 stripped down tracks, Second Chances is a collection of previous releases from McDonough’s back catalog. He’s seemingly breathed new life into these songs, and in the process, constructed a deeply emotional and encompassing work. It might offer some insight to learn that before recording this record, John was studying psychotherapy. There is certainly an element of psychological reflection, and self-evaluation to Second Chances, that one could only hope would be considered therapeutic.
Recently relocating to Chicago, John McDonough had maintained a consistent schedule as a touring and recording musician. Like countless others, his career was marginally derailed by the Covid outbreak, and he was forced to regroup. He chose to do what most would do; polish his skills, and compose new material. At some point he had decided that he wanted to release an entirely acoustic record, and that brings us to Second Chances. Due in large part to McDonough’s passionate and zealous style, Second Chances has a bit higher energy than other acoustic albums in the same vein.
John McDonough is certainly not a stranger to the studio, and it appears that all of that invaluable experience and knowledge translated well to the production of Second Chances. He employed the services of Kris Farrow for this record. Farrow, in particular is pristinely tuned, with gorgeous resonance. The same goes for the vocals, which Cody Rathmell provides harmonies on. There is a bit of a formula John has the tendency to lean on, but the high points in the songs always arrive, and largely negate any predictability.
McDonough has cited James Taylor as a key influence, and that is definitely evident on the opening track, “The Place Where I Belong.” It is one of the more folk tinged tracks, with impressive chord progressions, and a highly competent arrangement and confidently delivered performance. And one day/when I’m gone/My words/will be written in stone. McDonough describes the setting for his preferred final resting place. Having made every other plan in life, he has now allowed his thoughts to ponder the final decision.
The content on this record, is deeply introspective, for the most part. But rarely do you feel the glaze of gloom that can imbue more melancholy bits of work. Instead, Second Chances emits a calming effect, that ultimately advocates acceptance and preparedness. It’s intriguing that the songs included on this album are re-renderings of previous works. Second Chances unfolds in such a literary fashion, that it takes on an original and cohesive aura.
All in all, John McDonough has emerged with a supreme effort, here. The ebb and flow of Second Chances is crafted in such a way, that it maintains your attention, through a combination of subtlety and power. It doesn’t always leap out of the speakers in a bombastic sense, but as with all great art, this record makes you feel something. It comes at a time, that our world and the modern framework of society, must undergo a deconstruction of sorts. As we come to embrace the acceptance of such an undertaking and the preparation it requires, the inner evaluation that a record like Second Chances inspires, is a fitting soundtrack.