“If you leave behind the splendor of the quarter clientele / For the flats where all the houses look alike / I could wander here for hours / ‘til the levees start to swell / But I won’t put any fingers in the dike” we’re told by a superbly poetic Tris McCall in the opening lines of “The Unmapped Man,” his latest single and music video out this summer. In verses like these, and those that follow, we’re asked to revisit a pastoral landscape and its values in a way few mainstream artists have been able to describe but scores have tried to capture.
The mixing of “The Unmapped Man” affords as much attention to the instrumentation as it does the lead vocal from Tris McCall, and through this juxtaposition of elements he’s able to create a sense of balance that really drives the chorus – and everything that transpires before it – home every time it’s heard. I like that, much like the land he describes in those aforementioned verses, there’s something very even and calming about the very construction of this song that makes us feel at home from the get-go. There is no moodiness, nor the feeling that we’re about to run into something oddly experimental or self-serving.
There isn’t a lot of love for the bassline behind the board in either the single or the video, but I suppose that I can understand the reasoning behind McCall’s decision to go conservative on this front. To some extent, it’s debatable whether or not a bass component was even required in “The Unmapped Man,” mostly because of how heavy the swing in the collective harmony is, to begin with. There’s a lot of physicality to McCall’s own vocal, and from his perspective, I can see where he would have viewed any more bass in this track as being downright overindulgent.
As much as I dig the lyric video for “The Unmapped Man,” this entire composition feels like a mere piece of a much larger puzzle that has yet to be revealed to us. I don’t know if this was originally written as part of a grander rock opera of sorts, but it wouldn’t surprise me if McCall was employing this as a teaser for a much more progressive sound he plans to debut in the near future. There’s conceptualism to this release that I’m crazy about at the moment, and I doubt I’m the only one.
Those who love red, white and blue rhythms from genuinely independent sources just can’t beat what Tris McCall is throwing down in the Americana-influenced “The Unmapped Man” this July. While I’m not going to tell you that this is the lone alternative power anthem you should be adding to your summer road trip playlist, it’s definitely got the potential to become a favorite of anyone who has been jonesing for some good ol’ fashioned American folk-rock with an added kick. McCall plays the part of the dusty troubadour brilliantly here, and once you’ve heard the song for yourself, I think you’ll agree.
MORE ON TRIS MCCALL: http://trismccall.net/
-review by Matthew Rowe