John McDonough is back with his second EP, We’ll Answer The Call. A follow-up to 2021’s acoustic CD Second Chances, McDonough’s near obsession (he might say full obsession) with the story of the 1936 Olympic Champion United States rowing team led by Washington University’s Joe Rantz and the rest of the Husky rowing team as they stunned the world at the Berlin games. We’ll Answer The Call features an exuberant title track, carefully-mined acoustic guitar arrangements, poignant piano and some surprising electric guitar arrangements. The fullness of the sound is a different step from Second Chances, but it’s clearly in the right direction.
It’s a hidden gem. McDonough’s prideful display for this particular subject moves along much the same way historical nonfiction author Erik Larson (“The Devil In The White City”, “Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania” and more). McDonough is a natural at giving another life to this story. I can honestly say I had no idea about its importance, but McDonough’s persistence to share this story is admirable. “Shooting Star”, the first track, is full of winding guitar ribbons that caress the ears. From the get-go, as a listener, I was rooting for Rantz. He didn’t ‘feel’ fictional because McDonough sings from his perspective. I immediately felt like I was in the singer’s shoes and feeling the world against me. McDonough, who for many years sang in some of Austin, Texas’ popular Sixth Street taverns and clubs, has a steadiness in his voice. He sings as though he were singing for one but has the depth in his voice to sing to a stadium-sized audience.
In “Love You Just For You” McDonough keeps to his range, with snippets of wider soundscapes. I liked this song, especially, because it’s endearing and real. And through McDonough’s words we learn that Rantz really endured quite a bit in his childhood – he didn’t have an easy life. What makes “Love You Just For You” and “Among The Stars” is truly Americana. It’s that American story that cheers for the underdog. Even if we come from nothing, we still have a lot to give and contribute. That’s the beauty of the Olympics, and it’s found in the carefully produced songs. McDonough brings such joy to these tracks because he believed in the human spirit that Rantz possessed. I think he feels the same about his listener.
“We’ll Answer The Call” is the fourth track on the EP. A wrinkled music base, taught with acoustic guitar, opens up to a lovely array of piano and eventual electric (melodic) guitar. It’s a fantastic song with richness and bold vocal ranges. I felt like McDonough was empowered to really let out his true voice in this particular track. Not that he was holding back before, but he really felt more ‘at home’ in this song. Finally, “Point Me East” ends the EP on a bright note and wraps together a thrilling story worthy of much attention. We’ll Answer The Call is a splendid song collection.