If anyone reading this somehow remembers the name Don McLean, it's almost guaranteed that the only thing coming to mind right now is "American Pie". An undeniable classic, but also far from his standard fare. Or perhaps you've heard the legendary NOFX cover of "Vincent". If there's one thing I could scream into the ear of any folk fanatic, it's to stop at your local dollar bin and dig until you find his self-titled masterpiece. It's always there, and it's always worth it.
Working at record stores for the last decade, and as a lifelong audiophile, the number one thing I'm constantly asked is, "What would you recommend?" A ghastly question, as almost as soon as the sentence is finished I've immediately forgotten every band that has ever existed. But - without fail, I try my damnedest to preach the good word of Don McLean. Heart-wrenching ballads like "What A Shame", "The Grave" and "Till Tomorrow" are unshakable. In fact, his talent as a songwriter landed him in the Songwriter's Hall of Fame in 2004. His partners in crime include the likes of folk legend Pete Seeger, with whom he collaborated for nearly all his musical career. But it wasn't simply ballads depicting the gruesome realities of war, the profound loss that comes when two people promise each other forever and simply fade apart, or the sense of melancholy one finds in an object, or horse, tossed aside. McLean was also terribly funny, witty, and constantly evolving musically. One of the biggest treats in his records is finding that each song has it's own personality. He covered 1920's ragtime, wrote country-style tongue-in-cheek romps about retired cowboys, and of course, the universal jewel that is "American Pie".
Every album, every song..everything he ever did is worth sitting down and spending time with. His mastery of not only songwriting, but guitar and voice is staggering. But please - start with his 3rd record - the self titled & truly immaculate 'Don McLean'. It'll be the best dollar you've ever spent at a record store.