Austin singer/songwriter Chris McFarland has spent most of his career pounding away on his acoustic guitar and pouring out his heart in what he once perfectly dubbed “angry folk.” With vocals reminiscent of Bruce Springsteen or Bob Segar and a rhythmic guitar style a la Ani Difranco, McFarland’s songs are a cross between folk and rock. Think Dashboard Confessional’s early acoustic affair, only not quite so openly emo.
Then again, his songs are emotionally powerful. Often bare and stripped down, he can pour out his frustration and anger on one song and wax more poetic on the next. On The Unraveling, he shows that his songwriting prowess continues to grow. He continues to demonstrate that purely powerful Midwestern rock approach that draws comparisons to a younger Springsteen, and the instrumentation is more varied to allow each song to shine.
“On the Wing,” which opens The Unraveling, may be McFarland’s best effort yet. A high-energy affair, the song rides some intense beats and an electric guitar riff to accompany the acoustic guitar and McFarland’s always emphatic vocals. While many of his past songs have had emotional intensity, this one ups the rock factor to accompany that emotional drive, and the result is a stellar 5-minute rock song.
“Sound and the Safety” is more folky. It’s perfectly mixed, allowing McFarland’s voice to soar over light acoustic guitar and lap steel courtesy of Rainer Maria’s Kyle Fischer. It’s short and melancholy, but it flows nicely to the beautiful “The Last Day of Our Acquaintance.” The acoustic guitar is shining and crisp, with an atmospheric background that is nicely complimented by backing vocals from the other half of Rainer Maria, Caithlin DeMarrias. “The Evidence of Something” closes the EP as it started, with additional instrumentation to flesh out the rock sound but keeping a slower if no less powerful pace that allows McFarland’s lyrics to take center stage. His voice half-moans, half-howls the chorus, “So go on and say it now, I want to hear those words. Thought we’d make it through somehow. Now I know this might prove how wrong I was.”
McFarland has produced most of his work on his own dime, and it’s a shame the cost of making music kept this EP to a mere four songs. Still, it’s clear he picked the best of his new work for The Unraveling. Showing off his bare and emotional feel on some songs, his ability to rock on others, these songs are the perfect way to show off this artist’s continually growing talent.