Arguably one of the most fascinating musicians in modern Rock-n-Roll, Duff McKagan has many stories to tell. Famously known as Guns N’ Roses’ bassist, McKagan has a depth that runs much further and deeper than some may know.
Briefly looking back, McKagan began his musical journey in more of a Punk Rock world; playing in bands such as The Fastbacks and The Living. From here moving to Los Angeles in the ’80s, soon he joined up with Guns N’ Roses, on his way to being a fixture in the future Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band. Departing from them in 1997, he returned full-time in 2016, but other places McKagan has offered his talents include Velvet Revolver (with the likes of Slash, Matt Sorum, Dave Kuschner, and Scott Weiland), Walking Papers, among many others. Also, the host of a weekly show, Three Chords & The Truth, on SiriusXM channel Ozzy’s Boneyard with his wife Susan-Holmes McKagan, there seems to be no end to what he can do.
Continuously growing, one of the most astounding developments in more recent years has been McKagan’s songwriting skills. Something that became even more evident with his 2019 solo album Tenderness, there was plenty of thoughtful content within the eclectic, stripped down Rock presented. Keeping the momentum going, in 2020 McKagan went back into his Seattle home recording studio determined to create something special. Having time on his side, with the looming pandemic that put life on pause for most, he spent a good portion of the last 2 years working alongside Producer/Collaborator Martin Feveyear (Mark Lanegan, Brandi Carlile) carefully crafting songs. First putting out some new music in early 2023 with the 3-song EP This Is the Song, more work from the very intense recording sessions is now available in the form of McKagan’s new studio album Lighthouse.
Lighthouse, McKagan’s third studio album, arrived on October 20th and features 11 deeply personal tracks. Made up of ideas McKagan had written down and tucked away a while back, each of them is now fully developed and presented in a fashion that is thoroughly enthralling. Dripping with raw lyrical content, the messaging here is one of hope, despair, and everything in between. Feeling like a storyteller speaking directly to you, McKagan’s offers you his soul in each performance that is sincere and real.
With many of the tracks stripped back to the bare bones, you cannot help but envision McKagan sitting on a couch, with guitar in-hand, strumming and singing away. That said, the music itself surely paints visual pictures as well. This can be experienced profoundly on songs such as the title-track, “Longfeather,” “Forgiveness,” and “Holy Water.”
However, these emotions are not limited, because other outstanding moments include the heavier, more Punk-vibed “Another Shakedown,” the enchanting “Hope,” with Slash joining in, but also the absolutely striking “I Just Don’t Know” with Alice in Chains’ Jerry Cantrell included. Each of these, plus more, have stories to tell, and McKagan masterfully keeps your attention while doing so.
Overall, Lighthouse is a career defining album for Duff McKagan. It is thoughtful, extremely well-produced, and very significant in the context of present-day society. You see, McKagan gives honest assessments of the world he sees, inevitably holds out hope for a better tomorrow, yet still while conveying a candid sense of doubt as well. Honestly, you cannot ask for much more from any songwriter, and that is Cryptic Rock gives Lighthouse 4.5 out of 5 stars.