May 28, 2019 Duff McKagan – Tenderness (Album Review)
Michael Andrew McKagan, better known to Rock fans as Duff McKagan, is without a doubt one of the most recognizable and renowned bassists in all of Rock-n-Roll. As bassist for a number of acts, first and foremost Guns N’ Roses and Velvet Revolver, McKagan has been a part of multi-platinum selling records, legendary music videos, is a The New York Times best selling author, and has toured the world performing for millions of Rock fans over the last thirty plus years. That being said, this Rock and Roll Hall of Famer has graced history with a variety of noteworthy music from Hard Rock to Punk Rock.
As summer kicks off, McKagan has set a course to spread his own message by way of a new solo album, entitled Tenderness, slated to drop on Friday, May 31st, 2019 thanks to Universal Music Enterprises (UME). For the casual fans who may be unfamiliar with his solo work, McKagan has recorded two solo albums, the first being 1993’s Believe In Me as well as 1999’s Beautiful Disease, which was actually never released due to legal issues following a merger between Polygram and Universal Music. Not to be forgotten, McKagan also fronts the Seattle Punk Rock band Loaded, which has garnered critical acclaim as well.
With a title as simple as Tenderness, longtime fans of McKagan may be wondering if this new solo effort will be a departure from his usual Hard Rock and Punk Rock delicacies. Well, if that is a popular opinion based solely off the album title, then fans of McKagan guessed right. A complete departure from anything he has ever done, McKagan has ventured into an Americana sounding, acoustic, and Alternative Country laden sound for Tenderness. Not just a collection of new songs, the stories behind the tracks which make up Tenderness derive from McKagan’s time on the road during the Guns N’ Roses Not In This Lifetime… tour.
At that time, McKagan absorbed many of the issues going on in our world and it really hit home for this perceptive Rock-star. Commenting on the album’s subject matter, McKagan stated: “We’re becoming divided at a time when we need each other most.“ An incredibly accurate statement, McKagan channeled all of his thoughts into song alongside Grammy Award winning Producer Shooter Jennings who assisted McKagan in all facets of this project. What came to be is a soft spoken, highly inviting, eleven song collection featuring somber numbers that include piano, violin, and acoustic guitar.
As the current single off Tenderness, “Chip Away” calls for a change from media brainwashing and gives hope that we as a people will continue to push forward. By way of the title cut, “Tenderness” calmly opens up McKagan’s new songbook with stirring piano and a solemn call for love and understanding. Immediately, any listener will be pulled in by McKagan’s profound message and compelling musical arrangement. Following this up, “It’s Not Too Late” places emphasis on the stressful issues we as a world face on a daily basis but reminds us there is still time to make a change.
As a deafening call to action, Tenderness takes on a sobering combination of very human topics. On that note, we have “Wasted Heart,” where McKagan speaks of being accepted for your faults; “Last September,” with tales of bad relationships and domestic abuse; and “Cold Outside,” which speaks of testing our own character. Digging even deeper, McKagan exposes the questions that stem from the tragedy of school shootings on “Parkland.” In the finale, McKagan closes out Tenderness with “Don’t Look Behind You” as a side of saxophone soundtracks the act of moving forward rather than being emotionally frozen by the past.
Overall, McKagan really speaks from the heart throughout his new album, Tenderness. Musically, McKagan brings a fresh vibe different from his past work and fans should find it highly engaging. Most importantly, McKagan gives his voice to the plethora of issues plaguing our part of the universe but provides hope that, regardless of anything else, if we stick together we can create change and make it through these times of uncertainty.
Even better, McKagan is inviting fans help him support organizations like 320 Changes Direction (Suicide Prevention in honor of Chester Bennington), To Write Love On Her Arms (suicide prevention, depression), and Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission (homelessness and addiction) – all of which embody the message of Tenderness. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives Tenderness 4 out of 5 stars.