Scott McDougall's road dog lifestyle as a peripatetic one-man band has inspired much of his songwriting. His folk tunes are about long rides, towns passing by in the glow of golden leaves lining the highways, forgotten cities and tired travelers—quintessential roving songs. Tales of his long, verbose journeys are always characterized through the lens of a kick drum, hi-hat, harmonica, banjo and acoustic guitar along with McDougall's fearless, but fragile vocals. His live performance hovering over the kick drum, guitar or six-string banjo pressed to his chest and swaying to his own driving beat, epic beard propped on the shoulder of his instrument, doesn't scream 'look at me,' but he doesn't allow audiences to be complacent, either. His sets feel like a projected tipsy campfire shout along with a new level of captivating vigor.
There's power in the moments when McDougall's songs build to crashing symbols and hammering guitar behind a tornado of swirling facial hair and energy, and there's a subtlety in a near whisper of a harmonica solo and sweet strumming topped with poetic digressions.
McDougall surely lets the spirit move him, a learned skill from his Christian upbringing and the hymns and religious song that came along with it. In fact, his first musical experiences were playing drums in church. Combining those experiences with his long-time affection for punk rock and a keen understanding of blues and folk, McDougall takes a non-traditional approach to traditional archetypes.
"In 1998 or 2000 I got a six-string banjo," explained McDougall from his home in Vancouver. "I started transitioning from punk into acoustic music. I saw the similarities, and it made sense to me—taking the idea further by taking it backwards to a simpler way."
That transition has served him well, and he has built a five-album litany out of it, with a sixth self-titled release on the way.
"I've been learning, life has been changing in the last year and a half," explained McDougall. "It's transitioning from the majority my older albums. Traveling weekly is a part of my life I used to use that story of traveling as the scene to convey the things I was going through whether they had to do with travel or not. It's an easy platform to convey all sorts of human interaction and emotion. Now I'm starting to more directly relate the situations. It's a little more revealing."
McDougall the album starts off with the ear catching thunder of pair of symbol crashes leading into a bluesy, low-string melody that characterizes McDougall's sometimes heavy, sometimes coarse, style. The album's third track, "On The Mend" is a tragic burner about broken dreams punctuated with scathing picked banjo solos and McDougall's entrancing tension pulled tight like the strings of his guitar. McDougall effortlessly wraps listeners up in his nomadic fairytales.
9 pm. Sat., Nov. 1
Volcanic Theatre Pub, 70 SW Century Dr.