These four CDs encompassing the first five recordings of Switchback represent their early development as singer-songwriters who are equally adept at interpreting traditional Celtic, Americana, and gospel music in a new and fresh manner. Throughout this collection are bonus tracks of live performances and studio cuts that were previously unreleased and, like the first five albums, are only available in this special collection.
Disc 1, recorded and released in 1994, is the first recording of Switchback called Ain't Goin' Back. Originally released as a cassette tape, the album includes 17 selections ranging from the raw and audacious title song to the romantic and touching song The Moon to the fast-paced and humorous Battle of New Orleans.
Disc 2, a reissue of the 1995 release Check on Out, provides the next 16 songs released by Switchback. Comprised solely of original compositions, the signature style of American roots influenced by Celtic soul begins to emerge more clearly with the title song showing musical range and energy to the moving yet still entertaining Stranded, Ragged, and Poor to the highly relatable Ordinary Town.
Disc 3 is a combination of the next two releases, Seven Rowdy Irish Songs (And Two Sad Ones!) and Good Church. The first album showcases Switchback's ability to reinvent and freshen traditional Irish melodies that everyone has heard and loved for years, ranging from the wild and highly energized Drunken Sailor to the well-known standard Danny Boy. Good Church is a compilation of 17 equally well-known inspirational pieces including the beloved Ave Maria, the soaring How Great Thou Art, the beautiful Irish Child's Prayer, and the gospel standard Down by the Riverside.
The final disc, recorded in 1998, represents the music produced by the duo at the end of their first decade of collaboration, and all of the energy, beauty, and originality suggested by the first three discs are expressed fully on this production called Dar's Place. On here are 18 songs of wit, excitement, and emotion that will become favorites as well as spark interest in Switchback's work that follows. From the highly danceable Swingin', Rockin', Rollin' to the humor and verbal agility of Sycamore View to the sweet and nostalgic Traveling Down an Irish Road, this disc is the perfect expression of 10 years of singing and songwriting by Switchback.
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
"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
When they met in 1984, Switchback's Martin McCormack was studying voice in college, and playing in a well-known Chicago pop band with his brothers. Brian FitzGerald was playing Freddy Green-style guitar on Chicago's Maxwell Street and learning mandolin from Jethro Burns. Both were drawn to Irish music--McCormack through his family's connection with County Mayo and FitzGerald through the meeting with County Kerry legend "Cuz" Teahan. Over the next few years, the pair played together in three different bands (two of them traditional Irish). McCormack contributed bass and his classically trained tenor; FitzGerald supplied guitar and fleet mandolin. By 1993, the tug of their own songwriting talents and love for American roots music inspired them to break away and form their own duo - Switchback.
Their partnership has produced ten albums to date, ranging from the lean and energetic debut, Ain't Goin' Back (1994), to the honky-tonk jukebox medley Dar's Place (1998), to the critically acclaimed Celtic twang of The Fire that Burns (2002), the Irish roots album Bolinree (2005) and the much praised, Americana song-cycle Falling Water River (2006). (The Fire that Burns and Bolinree were both produced by Grammy-winning producer, Lloyd Maines.)
Showcasing a repertoire ranging from sentimental ballads to blistering rockers, the duo deliver a powerful sound rivaling that of larger ensembles. While their musical paths have taken them to a variety of genres, Martin and Brian have never abandoned their traditional Celtic roots. At once eliciting praise and frustration by critics who find it difficult to pigeonhole their eclectic sound, Switchback continues to be driven by their mission to create and bring music to far-flung places and unlikely audiences. And with the rhythmic cadence of their dancing shoes, the audiences return the favor, paving the winding road for the band's well-worn wheels.
RECOGNITION, MEMBERSHIPS AND AWARDS:
Irish Music Association: Top Duo in a Pub, Festival or Concert (US, IRE, EU, UK) 2008
Illinois Arts Council ArtsTour Roster
Illinois Arts Council Artist in Education
Iowa Arts Council ArtsTour Roster
North American Folk Alliance Member
Americana Music Association Member
ASCAP-Plus Awards Recipient 2005-Present
Brian FitzGerald: guitar, mandolin, vocals
Martin McCormack: bass, guitar, vocals
405 East Ridge Road
Griffith, IN 46319