When singer-songwriter Joey McGee categorizes his work as roots music, heâ€™s not just
referring to the blend of soul, country, blues and rock commonly called Americana. Heâ€™s
talking about his own roots, cultivated in his native New Orleans, nurtured by a sojourn
in San Antonio and a much longer one in Pittsburgh, and planted deeply in his current
home of Bryan, Texas.
In songs such as â€œSunday Bluesâ€ and â€œThe Likes of Youâ€ — recorded at Yellow Dog Studios in
Wimberley, Texas — McGeeâ€™s warm baritone delivers lyrics that are incredibly personal and
revealing. But in others, such as â€œHurricane/Forty Two Hundred and Cigarettes,â€ he inhabits
the role of storyteller, weaving Springsteen-worthy narratives for characters who sound so real,
they have to exist somewhere.
Regardless of whether heâ€™s laying bare his own psyche or examining othersâ€™, his lyrics
always come across as honest. Genuine. Maybe the word we want here is true. As in, they
feel true. And speak truths. The longing he expresses in â€œPining,â€ a country-leaning tune
enhanced by Kim Deschampsâ€™ mournful pedal steel and producer David Percefullâ€™s Wurlitzer,
is something nearly all of us have experienced. Most of us also know what itâ€™s like to struggle with
feeling out of place, unmoored, as McGee describes in â€œSunday Blues.â€ And if weâ€™re
lucky, weâ€™ve experienced what itâ€™s like to find a place that feels so right, we know weâ€™re
home at last. Thatâ€™s the subject of â€œDeep in the Heart,â€ McGeeâ€™s love letter to Texas.
Of course, Texasâ€™ varied musical influences have as much of an effect on McGee as its
natural elements. In these parts, sincerity matters, and dedication counts. Artists quickly
learn which masters to study: Mt. Rushmore includes Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark.
If youâ€™re gonna record one of their tunes, youâ€™d better bring it, and on â€œThe Capeâ€ and
“Pancho and Lefty” McGee does.
McGee hones his craft and soaks up wisdom wherever he can. And
sometimes, heâ€™ll impart it, too. He knows people sometimes wonder, but
might be too shy to ask how â€œa black city dude got involved in folk and country music.â€
â€œThe simple answer is, I like simplicity. I like a good story and I like playing guitar,â€ he
says. â€œThe whole â€˜three chords and the truthâ€™ thing really resonates with me, and I find
that in country and folk. Itâ€™s in the blues and gospel, too, and I think blues and country
are two sides of the same coin. I can dig â€˜em both if thereâ€™s a good story to tell and a
good groove to be had.â€
And he adds, â€œIt taps into the rootedness of who I am â€” a Southern, CreoleCajun
musician working through my hang-ups and trying to make the world a better
place along the way.â€