Scroll below for:
-"The Fire that Burns" first review, Oct. 2002
-Seen and Heard: What folks are saying about Switchback
by Tanya O'Connor, Tapestry Magazine
Switchback's Brian FitzGerald picks mandolin like a seamstress might quilt: stitches effortless, skill apparent, and plenty of stories still to sew while the needle is nimble. And if FitzGerald, who hangs his guitars in Lansing, IA, threads the story that is Switchback together, it's his bass-toting partner Marty McCormack of Woodstock, IL, who carries the color for the duo. Whether he's bellowing out a Switchback original or a bawdy Irish bar tune, McCormack's bit of brogue, gift of gab, and generally wandering way of being has waxed productive since the duo met 16 years ago. After all, it takes a couple of dreamy optimists to call a score of clubs their living rooms and the entire Midwest, running like one long train track from Chicago, IL, to Winona, MN, their rambling home.
Switchback may show their Celtic souls with the best of 'em, yet they've gone a note further than many of their contemporaries, taking the dirt-driven tenacity of their potato-planting ancestors and gnawing out serious American roots. FitzGerald and McCormack, whether playing as a duo or a four-piece band with cellist Cathy Kuna and percussionist Alpha Stewart, continue to contribute to the increasingly popular grassroots Americana music movement. Evidence to their growth is Switchback's current, full-band recording of The Fire That Burns with legendary music producer, Texan Lloyd Maines. The CD, due for release in Autumn 2002, has "taken the duo sound," said McCormack, "and worked it sensitively into a full-band performance." This will be their seventh album to date.
Indefinable, irreverent, and inescapably American, Switchback songs are known to make even the most sedentary acknowledge their feet. Having something for everyone, it seems, hasn't watered down what's for dinner at a Switchback show. Instead, hitting the heart of what unites us as Midwesterners is a central part of their increasing success.
405 East Ridge Road
Griffith, IN 46319
'The Fire That Burns' by Switchback
CD review by Donna Eckberg, FOLKFIRE MAGAZINE
What a triumph this is for Brian Fitzgerald and Marty McCormack who were joined by their Chicago band mates Alpha Stewart and Cathy Kuna for this recording. I cried when I heard the luxurious mix and those sweet harmonies. Their essence has finally been captured by the skill of producer Lloyd Maines of Austin, TX. It is especially poignant knowing how the duo has carried on in spite of hard knocks and setbacks. Their superb songwriting prevails describing relationships. You'll experience love, hurt, feeling drawn in or the need to pull away. Witness the ambivalence and emotion of life laid bare. Sprinkle in the haunting of family ghosts.
The title song, "The Fire That Burns," sets the theme, showing that joy and sorrow can come from the same source. The music is energetic, emotionally charged and excitingly eclectic. Switchback combines acoustic and electric sounds with elements of bluegrass, country, rock, Celtic and pop. The twang of a dobro opens "The Farmer Leaves the Dell" joined by Brian on mandolin, Marty on guitar and their voices meshing in perfect harmony. The next track storms into the hardscrabble existence of the "Connemara Man" with images of the nomads of that rocky coastal region in Ireland. They growl the refrain:
"dancin' for tomorrow, dancin' for today,
dancin' for the memories never to fade away
dancin' for your sorrow, dancin' for your pain,
dancin' for your broken heart, never to mend again!"
Lending authenticity to the piece, the electric cello played by Cathy Kuna wails like Irish bagpipes. Sweetening the pot, "Apple of My Eye" goes country, combining Alpha Stewart's freight train drum beat with Lloyd Maines on pedal steel guitar and the duo singing a poppy, echoing refrain. The undulating chorus in their captivating waltz, "End Over End" is backed by accordion and the tremolo of mandolin to give it a European flavor. Marty's silky tenor explains that "love is pain turned inside out that wants to turn back again ..... because the thrill is worth the spill that sends you end over end." A reality check follows when "In My Glory" asks, "will you love me?" as the real me is revealed in a duet pairing Marty with the stunning voice of Maggie Fitzgerald. You're then "Bamboozled" when divorce brings the sting of rejection and betrayal as it all crashes. To lighten things up, the group throws down an instrumental Celtic tune, "Wild Irish Polkas," so typical of their live performances.
The CD is capped by "The Has-Been That Never Was," describing a home neglected and forgotten, but watched over by a higher power. The song is book-ended by the salvaged treasures of a couple of the family's ghosts. A soul-searching sonnet read by Brian's deceased father precedes the song. Ending the song, Maggie's deceased father jauntily hums the tune while strumming on a mandolin, perhaps haunting the place while seated on the front porch. This should prepare you for Switchback's return to the Focal Point on Friday, December 13, 2002, for the St. Louis release of "The Fire That Burns."
THE GOOD WORD: WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING ABOUT SWITCHBACK
"Small Midwestern towns and the roads between them are filled with curious profiles. Towns of 1,000 people are made of individuals whose grand life philosophy has come out of very minute situations.
"Marty McCormack and Brian FitzGerald of the band Switchback have rambled these highways and rested their heads in quiet enclaves between more famous points night after night. A diary of their travels comes out in their songs."
--- Kris Hoeksema, Daily Southtown
"Switchback's music hits an 'everybody' note. I like having them as featured players because I only want original music acts and their love of music makes what they do special; it makes it their own."
--- Marc Smith, Green Mill, Chicago
"(Switchback) are way outside the lines. That inspires me. . . They have a lot to offer."
--- Lloyd Maines, producer
"If Marty McCormack and Brian FitzGerald aren't the kings of live performance, I don't know who could be."
--- Angela Pancella, host, The Eclectic Mix, KDHX, St. Louis
"There are new converts to Switchback fandom at every concert, people who go on to attend every local show and sometimes even travel to see them in other parts of the Midwest. Switchback's appeal, and what makes them unique, is easy to understand: they can really play. But there's more to it than that - something particularly magic about their songs, upbeat and danceable, and with a great sense of melody that encourages everyone to sing along."
--- Angela Pancella, host, The Eclectic Mix, KDHX, St. Louis
"Marty McCormack and Brian FitzGerald, who go by the collective name of Switchback, are a couple of great singer/songwriters. Switchback creates a full, deep sound with only their voices and some acoustic guitars and mandolins. The instrumental 'It's Raining' is a gently driven Celtic-flavored cut that sparkles in its simplicity and grace, reminding me of what an unplugged Thin Lizzy might have sounded like. Just when you think these guys are almost too mellow, they kick out the up-tempo 'Just Because I Love You,' which rocks with acoustic authority."
--- M.M.C., Illinois Entertainer
"In a time when pop artists are under increasing pressure to fit a narrow, commercial formula, Switchback bucks the trend."
--- Kevin McKeough, Chicago Metromix
"Their music can go from blasting rock to foot-stomping country to a haunting melody and back again. They're classically trained musicians and have been working at their art for years."
--- Ginny Skweres, Daily Herald
"(Switchback's) harmonies sound spry, sympathetic and tight as bluegrass. . . Their sound is stripped back but danceable in the electro-acoustic riffs: The songs showcase FitzGerald's fleet, rhythmic mandolin and guitar work, which can race like rockabilly or canter about in jiglike circles. They generate surprising energy from just two instruments and two voices."
--- Roy Kasten, River Front Times, St. Louis
"Brian became one of the most acclaimed mandolin and guitar players in the Midwest. That isn't so surprising considering he had FitzGerald's performers like Stevie Ray Vaughn giving him tips."
--- Heidi Von Schreiner, Wednesday Journal
"(Switchback) is a great band who can make two guys sound like eight."
--- Billy Shelton, original member of the Chi-lites
"It's difficult to sit still in their presence . . . It is captivating to have this songwriting backed by so much emotion."
--- Donna Eckberg, FolkFire Reviews
"The music of Marty McCormack and Brian FitzGerald defies the labeling that so easily categorizes most bands. . . Years of classical training and session work with Chicago's jazz greats have built FitzGerald's style on both guitar and mandolin while McCormack contributes solid bass guitar lines and vibrant vocals to the mix. However it is the many original songs written by the duo that are the essence of Switchback."
--- Julie Masterson, Press Publications
"Sure enough, Molly Malone's was rocking that night. The band was cooking, the dance floor was filled . . . 'Switchback' the band was called and their music electrified the crowd at Molly Malone's. They played everything from traditional Irish, to rock classics to their own unique style of rockabilly. McCormack's musicianship and stage presence set the tone. The crowd responded raucously."
--- John Rice, Forest Park Review
"Their music has been labeled with almost every conceivable adjective and linked to almost every American genre (save rap) from the day they started lifting notes together as Switchback, the Chicago area's ranking power duo . . . One is compelled to throw the search light onto their skills as songwriters and arrangers in order to better evaluate their elusive, yet widely infectious, music. . .
"Fancy musicianship aside, ('Climb that Mountain') works because of the complement of the neatly manicured lyrics and breezy harmonies that recount a mystical journey up an Irish hilltop.
"But that's just one way Switchback can move you. They can get you slapping your knees with 'Haybarn Rendezvous' or put your feet to the floor with the cool, rockabilly shuffle, 'Swingin', Rockin', Rollin.'"
--- Howell J. Malham, Jr., Country Post
405 East Ridge Road
Griffith, IN 46319