Austin-based singer-songwriter George Palmer Macias draws on most of the same influences as former Mavericks frontman Raul Malo – smooth Orbison-esque pop, early rock and roll, Chicano rock a la Los Lobos and, yes, even a dash of country – but what he does with them is wholly his own.
Macias’s self-released solo debut Firefly arrived earlier this year. The swanky, seductive grooves will be the first thing you notice, but Macias also has a literate songwriting style and an interesting, affecting voice. The album begins with “Break This Bottle,” with subdued guitar riffs giving way to the opening lines: “Starting all over again, looking at my face in the mirror/If youth is getting farther away, wisdom must be getting nearer.”
Macias’s real wisdom lies in situating particular circumstances and emotions within broader natural and historical contexts. The far-out “Milky Way” puts worldly concerns in perspective by characterizing a human as “just some matter, some blood, some clay/Ball of dust in the cosmic fray/Spinning around in the Milky Way.” Meanwhile, the poetic “Who Paints Upon the Wind” finds Macias in awe of nature’s majesty, while also making room for references to Michelangelo and Ferlinghetti. Following in that historical vein, “Ringtail” is a rocking slab of Texas past told from the viewpoint of founding father Martin Parmer – indeed, the chorus is a direct quote from Parmer, who is credited as a cowriter on the track. Even when Macias is just wondering “Where In the World” his girl went, he approaches the matter from a broad, learned perspective:
The Taj Mahal is in Agra, India
The Rhine River flows through the heart of Bonn
The Kalahari Desert starts in Namibia
But where in the world has my baby gone?
Well, if she wasn’t a geography buff, I think I might know what sent her packing…
HER: Have you seen my earrings anywhere, honey?
HIM: The Statue of Liberty’s in New York City
The Colisseum resides in Rome
There’s a big ol’ volcano in Tahiti
And I saw your earrings by the phone.
HER: Oh, thanks. I think maybe we need to talk…
In all seriousness, Macias’s lyrics are interesting enough in themselves, but thankfully they’re just gravy on top of an already enjoyable sonic experience, full of smooth, swaying ballads (“The Way the River Flows” and “It’s Only a Heart” are of particular note) and old-school rockers like “Don’t Touch the Money” and “Take This Town.” On the whole, this is a promising solo debut that should be to the liking of anyone who has fallen for Raul Malo, Chris Isaak or others of that Orbison-leaning ilk. Pretty good stuff. Give the clips a listen.