Chris McFarland – Distance for Departure

Chris McFarland
Distance for Departure

Chris McFarland describes his style of music “angry folk.” I like the sound of that, but I don’t think this album is really a folk album, and thus you should continue reading this review. Rather than being a folk album, although there is quite a bit of the folk-inspired sound, I’d call McFarland’s work that of a singer/song-writer. And by that, I mean it’s primarily McFarland’s voice and his acoustic guitar (with drums used on two songs and keyboards on one).
Sounds folk to you, right? Well, it’s all about how you put those two components together. The guitar is played emphatically, and that’s where the “angry” part comes from. It has a percussive and dark sound, and it gives these songs an intensity that is just increased by McFarland’s vocals. And the vocals make this album special. McFarland sounds like he is singing his heart out here, pouring out emotion and intensity in every song. He reminds me a bit of Bob Mould in the vocal department, and I swear I get chills.
From the start, this has the feel of a singer/song-writer album. The acoustic guitar on “Foreclosure” is played not fast but with emphasis, and McFarland’s voice is slightly echoed, as if recorded in a big room, and quite emphatic. “Cover” has more of a full feel, with drums added to the mix and McFarland playing some driving electric guitar in addition to the acoustic guitar. Elements of Neil Young mix with Mould’s band Sugar and the gothic-country stylings of Sixteen Horsepower on this track, which is one of my favorites. That being said, the next track, “Taking in Return,” takes my breath away with the mix of electric guitars and acoustic and McFarland’s vocals straining. It’s all about the intensity. “I care too much about you and not enough about myself,” McFarland sings on “Enough,” which goes from intense to soft and subtle. “With My Absence” is heartbreaking. I take it as a story of a breakup, when the father is not allowed to see his daughter, which hurts everyone. It’s also the quietest, more subtle song on the album. And the closer, “Summer,” has the most gorgeous guitar in it. This song also shows off McFarland going from quiet and soft to loud and intense.
The style of guitar McFarland plays reminds me of that played by Ani Difranco. It’s a percussive style, meaning you can hear the intensity by which the strings are played, and the guitar provides something of both a lead and rhythm feel. But the guitar is only one component here. Really, McFarland’s voice and his intense singing style makes this album so amazing. Every time I hear his songs, I get absorbed into what he’s singing about. I can only imagine that, live, McFarland puts the entire room under his spell. Powerful, powerful stuff. Angry folk? Perhaps. But I say it’s sparse yet intent rock, and I like it.