When asked why he titled his new record United States Ian McLagan replied, “It’s about relationships. Actually it’s an anagram for Austin Texas and Nudist Estates.”
He’s always the joker, so that last part might not be accurate. But Austin resident McLagan sings and writes from his heart on his Yep Roc debut. United States is his first record in five years and first since being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of classic British rockers Faces in 2012. It’s a combination of unremitting desire and deep contemplation as well as a showcase for his beguiling way of fashioning one memorable hook after another.
His last disc, 2009’s Never Say Never, found McLagan in the state of grief. It was released following the sudden passing of his wife Kim who died in a auto accident. United States offers an experienced reflection on affairs of the heart.
“It’s a lot about, as all my records seem to be, about loss,” McLagan says. “It’s about trying to get into a relationship. It’s tough to be 68 and dating. But some of these songs are very old. “Pure Gold” I had twenty odd years ago. I recorded it once a long time ago and I wasn’t happy with it.”
With the assistance of the more than adept Bump Band – composed of some of Austin’s most highly regarded sidemen, ’Scrappy’ Jud Newcomb on guitar, Jon Notarthomas on bass, and Conrad Choucroun on drums – “Mac” delivers a mixed bag of settings for his wise observations on relationships. “I have a such a band,” he exclaims. “When I play something they immediately fall in. There’s no real discussion. It’s real easy to record with them.”
The trapping range from the ska bounce of “Pure Gold” to sultry sway of “Who Says It Ain’t Love,” the roadhouse blues of “How Blue” to 1960’s style R&B of “Shalalala.”
“”Shalalala” is really a thank you, a love song to the audience. Thank you for being here and asking me to play,” he explains.
McLagan recorded and produced the album at his own The Doghouse Studios in Manor, TX. The songs were mixed by longtime friend Glyn Johns (The Faces, The Who) and mastered by Bob Ludwig (Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones).
Throughout McLagan croons about love, real or imagined, in a way that’s affecting yet reflects his rock and roll roots. He began in the 1960’s as the keyboard player for the Small Faces, who eventually became the Faces when Steve Marriott left and Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood joined in. Since he’s become a successful solo artist as well as a sideman in high demand.
Over the years McLagan has performed with the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne and a host of others. Mac moved to Austin in 1994. Since he’s become an important cog in the bustling music scene, where he’s performed with everyone from Ray Wylie Hubbard to Eliza Gilkyson to James McMurtry.
“It’s the community,” Mac says of his time in Austin. “I’ve been thinking about this. I’m a socialist. Sorry the rest of the world. Sorry the rest of Texas. It means I care. That’s all it is. I like the fact that it’s the first place I’ve ever lived where there’s a real sense of community. People care about their neighbors. I’m proud to say this is my home.”