04 March 2011

Somebody to Love: Paul McDonald and The Grand Magnolias

I had so many things I was planning to write about through my travels today but when I finally made my way home and to this computer the only thing left on my mind to write about was Alabama native Mr. Paul McDonald, the best American Idol contestant since Michael Johns. He is one of those rare musicians American Idol lets slip through that has actual artistry, not just in the way he tweaks a well known tune to make Randy happy but the kind that is so natural it flows through his veins. His rendition of "Maggie May" was actually a bit of a Rod Stewart sound-alike during the Top 24 performances but it was his performance style that instantly captured my attention. McDonald, unlike the others this season, has a very fluent interaction with the audience that seems to be authentic. He is simply himself and that's enough. With his kitschy flowered jackets (that are pretty phenomenal) and beat-up cowboy boots, he stumbles around the overdone stage with the grace of a drunken southerner on a Saturday night on Beale Street. I was impressed to find that he's only 26 and has been touring the country opening for acts ranging from Lynyrd Skynyrd to Augustana. He's an interesting concoction of folk, R&B, and certainly a large dash of southern/vintage rock mixed with a singer/songwriter sensibility. He's great on guitar and his voice is just the right amount of raspy and sweet.

As lead singer of The Grand Magnolias, McDonald is also the current holder of a top 10 spot on the iTunes rock charts, currently leading bands like Guns 'N Roses and Bon Jovi. It's pretty ridiculous. McDonald and company are an instant sensation. I'm not even sure if another Idol contestant in the history of the show has managed to sell as many copies of a pre-Idol album as McDonald has. As a few have mentioned, I didn't even know it was possible for someone with a record deal to be on the show let alone make such a mark with their band while still vying for the Idol crown. If ever an exception should be made though, it's for Paul McDonald. Take a listen, he's pretty extraordinary.

I also find it rather interesting that The Grand Magnolias' website is surprisingly stylish and modern. Unlike a lot of local or supporting bands, this band has clearly taken pride in their aesthetic and managed to cultivate a really nice, cohesive appearance. They make it known right away that they're serious about their professionalism even if Paul referred to himself as a "starving artist" before making his way on to the show. This band knows who they are and have found  a perfectly shaped niche inside of their genre. The more I listen to them, the more they grow on me. There are very few bands these days that would impress me enough to buy an entire album after just one listen, particularly after finding their lead singer on American Idol, but I strongly believe this band has a future long after the show is over and their frontman loses to some guy we won't even recall come this time next year.

Perfect if you like: The Avett Brothers, Old Crow Medicine Show, Drive-By Truckers.

1 comment:

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