Artist: Greg Wickham
Album: If I Left This World
Label: Thirty Days
Release Date: 03/17/17
By the sounds of these songs, you’d never know that Kansas City’s Greg Wickham had been out of the music business so long. If I Left This World is his first album since the 2003 dissolution of Hadacol, the acclaimed roots quartet he fronted with his brother, Fred. It’s a fantastic set, brimming with common appeal, but also personal grandeur, having been inspired by his desire to leave his children an account of himself, voicing his thoughts at this particular point in his life. Hence, the album’s title. So, it begins with “Angel of Mercy (Song for Sophie),” a sweeping plea for a guiding light for one of his girls. The lushness in the delivery recalls the mid-’80s Waterboys—I even hear a Gaelic brogue in Wickham’s vocal. Then it all goes straight to the heart of America, and stays.
Barroom country stompers “Me Oh My” and “Ain’t No Way to Love You” celebrate letting off steam, and being a little off-kilter in life and love. Definitive country music surely accentuates some of Wickham’s songs, but so does the rock ‘n’ roll of Missouri’s Lou Whitney and his bands the Morells and the Skeletons. In fact, Wickham celebrates Whitney’s ways in “Almost to Springfield (For Lou),” but the sharp wit is all his own. Five of the songs constitute a promising reunion of Hadacol, with brother Fred and bassist Richard Burgess playing robust roots like “How Much I’ve Hurt” with unbridled glee. Wickham’s “Dad,” his first voice of inspiration, is heard in a quick, tipsy clip singing Marty Robbins’ “Big Iron.” It’s the best lead-in possible to the brooding, bluesy “Clear,” one of the Hadacol five, about how he hears that directorial voice in his life now. A country duet with local Kansas City singer Kasey Rausch, on the title song, brings out the Hank and the Patsy in both artists, a country weeper of the highest order. The rest of the players on the album—and there are quite a few—play brass, percussion, mandolin, viola, cello, and whatnot, affording these excellent songs the variety they deserve.