John McDonough Releases EP

Music

When the forces of evil are stacked against you or when loss is all around you – never give up hope. Honing in on that both literally and figuratively, singer/songwriter John McDonough follows his own heart and tells the story of the 1936 Olympic Gold rowing champion – Joe Rantz in the five-track EP We’ll Answer The Call.  Rantz, who along with his teammates at Washington’s Husky rowing program, traveled to Berlin, facing not only world-class competition, but entered Adolph Hitler’s Nazi-led Berlin Olympic games. Rantz also faced his own trying childhood and his story would go on to inspire many others, before he passed away at age 93 in 2007. One might ask why the Rantz story, and the reporting of a rowing team from the 1930s is so important to not only McDonough, but to us in the year 2022? It’s simple. Because the human spirit always matters. 

McDonough, a prolific artist with many albums under his belt, has already proved his songwriting prowess. Now based in Chicago, McDonough last released 2021’s Second Chances, and while the majority of his discography is acoustic, he does bring into play the piano and rousing electric guitar into the mix on We’ll Answer The Call. What kept echoing into my mind while listening to the opening song, “Shooting Star” or even the next track, “Love You Just For You” is the way McDonough’s affection for his protagonist is so simple and direct. He really communicates to the listener that Rantz’s story could be any of us. In “Shooting Star” especially, McDonough curates the direness of Rantz’ childhood (poverty and loss – and in McDonough’s words: felt the world crushing on my chest). Those words struck me as universal because listeners everywhere face credit card debt, job insecurity, divorce, etc. 

McDonough doesn’t let up in “Among The Stars”. It’s a great leeway into the next song, the title track. It’s obvious it’s going to be a winning story, but by “We’ll Answer The Call” listeners might find themselves singing along even more so. The simple line water between us gave me chills. I felt like that line again described obstacles to overcome. It’s literally the water between countries and the illustration of rowing, but still. I really don’t think you actually have to know the story of Rantz to enjoy any of the songs on We’ll Answer The Call, but it certainly helps. 

“Point Me East” is the final song. What I loved most about this track, more than I thought I would, is the feeling that it leaves you with. Not only do you want to replay the EP again, but the lingering words and McDonough’s feisty vocals are so gripping. 

I did a quick Google search for songs ‘inspired by the Olympics”. Some of the songs that came up were “Change” from Taylor Swift, “Everything Will Change” by Gavin DeGraw and “Survival” from Muse. Those are just a few. I think as listeners we are always wanting to be inspired and We’ll Answer The Call does just that and more. 

Levi Colston

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