Hailing from San Luis Obispo, California, Rowan McGuire is a singer-songwriter who recently released his debut EP entitled Off the Beaten Path. At the core of this EP is technically impressive guitar playing and McGuire’s vocals. The songs are warm and comforting to the extent they can release tension when you listen to the songs.
McGuire points to artists like Ben Howard, Nick Drake, John Martyn and Nick Mulvey who gave him inspiration which all makes sense. That being said you can hear some Cat Stevens in there as well.
The EP kicks off with” Whispers of the Night.” McGuire lightly strums chords as the lead guitar has noticeable delay effects. It’s an intoxicating combination of beauty and melancholy. Once McGuire starts singing I was sold that this was going for a pleasurable ride. The song gains some momentum as he sings, “The bitter taste that temptation left in my mouth / Remains no matter how hard I try to spit it out.”
Next up is “The Divide” which is more somber and contemplative than the opener. The sparse orchestral strings are a nice touch and I loved the humming McGuire pulls off. As the song progresses it does pick up some speed and changes to a lively, almost festive vibe.
The seven-minute-plus song “Soft Skin on Steel” felt like the centerpiece. This also happened to be the song that reminded me of Cat Stevens. The last two minutes may be the finest on the album - don’t miss it. On “The Island” McGuire paints abstract imagery with his lyrics. He sings, “The land flashes by a mosaic of color and life / Out my window on either side / There’s fields of gold, gold like the love you've given me / Out my window as far as I can see.”
He closes with the title track, which contains the prominent percussive elements; in fact may be a bit too prominent towards the end. All things considered it was an effective closer.
Off the Beaten Path is good EP which showcases above average songwriting and exceptional delivery.
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