Doug McKean’s fourth solo record is nothing short of exceptional. Esperanto Sessions is a record created by someone who obviously loves music (in a variety of styles) and has a passion for playing honestly and without pretense. From top to bottom this is an album that mixes folk, college rock, and soul (with a pinch of dance) and does so easily and seamlessly.
The record opens with the very Pogues-esque “By the Time I Get to Chong Nonsi” before busting into “There’s a Party in the USA,” an extremely fun and danceable number that is not to be confused with the Miley Cyrus hit. “Silk Scarecrow” is a soft ballad driven by acoustic guitar. “Almost Everywhere” starts of soft before building up to a crescendo that rides out the rest of the tune. “Civil Twilight” is a rockin’ number wile “Winston Salem” drips of southern country. Next is one of the album’s best moments, the folky/college rock number “Aggressive Passion” which is filled with some great guitar hooks. “Julian” is another ballad followed by the heart wrenching and passionate “Believe” (another one of the album’s best moments). “Night Basketball” is a folk rock tune followed by the haunting ballad “Mars & Detroit.” Esperanto Sessions closes out with “You Don’t Have to Stay Here (But You Can’t Go Home)” another genre-crossing tune that does a great job in tying up the record.
There are some records and artists that take no effort by the listener to enjoy or understand. That’s not the case with the work of Doug McKean or with Esperanto Sessions. This is a record that challenges the listener; it almost dares you to try to squeeze it into a simple category. And one thing for certain is that this record cannot be easily squeezed into one category or genre. McKean’s talents as a songwriter are wide and varied and in may ways defy categorization. That’s what makes this record so good. These songs are passionate and heartfelt played with nothing but love and heart and soul. And besides, not everything in life should be easy. So if you are someone who needs your music to be easy, then this is not the record for you, but instead if you like music that challenges you to think then I HIGHLY recommend giving Esperanto Sessions a listen.