Pearl Jam lead guitarist Mike McCready has known Seattle-based musician Danny Newcomb since they were both five years old. McCready has been playing music with Newcomb since they were 11 years old. In fact, he says, Newcomb was one of the main reasons he chose a guitar, to begin with. Newcomb was the first on the block to get a six-string when the two were kids and as a result, says McCready, he wanted one too.
One wonders if the history of rock music would have been entirely different if Newcomb hadn’t been around from the start. And it’s memories like these that make McCready smile today because the band he and Newcomb founded in 1999, The Rockfords, finally get their shine and release date. Some 22 years after McCready, Newcomb and the band recorded their self-titled debut album, it’s now set to release with a debut single, “Silver Lining,” out today (January 14).
“‘Silver Lining’ is just one of those really well-constructed cool ballads,” McCready told American Songwriter. “I really like the way Danny wrote this song and I like [lead singer] Carrie Akre’s voice, her emotional quality. There is despair and sadness, but also beauty. I really like this song.
The Rockfords are made up of a handful of notable Seattle musicians – McCready, Newcomb, Akre and brothers Chris and Rick Friel. McCready grew up with Newcomb and the Friel brothers, playing thousands of hours together, “much harder than we should have,” the Pearl Jam lead player said.
“I wouldn’t be where I am without these guys,” McCready says, “without those countless hours of recording and playing in the Northwest, setting up our shows and stuff. There is a kind of continuity and symmetry now.
When McCready hangs out with the guys, they drop into old jokes, talk about KISS and other 70s rock music. They have a close bond. Of course McCready had to step away from his Seattle connections as Pearl Jam was quickly becoming one of the biggest bands in the world, but when he was able to get back to town he was geeked out to play with his bands again. best friends. . When The Rockfords started in the late 90s, it was obvious to bring in Akre, who was a prominent vocalist around the turn of the millennium in bands like Goodness, a band Newcomb also played in.
“His voice,” McCready says. “It’s such a powerful and passionate voice. And she and Danny have worked together for so long. There is a good combination there.
The first band McCready played in was a band called Warrior. This group also consisted of Newcomb and the Friel brothers. Later he played with the guys in a band called Shadow. In other words, there is the story. And it shows in the music. That’s why the Rockfords’ debut is so important. And although it was put on YouTube via a pirated way years ago, it is now getting a proper release on all digital platforms. From an organic beginning now comes its eventual public showcase.
“It happened very naturally,” McCready says, recalling the early days. “During a conversation.”
The 12 tracks, 50 minutes The Rockfords is all rock. It features McCready’s nimble, imaginative licks and solos. It features Akre’s warmth as a vocalist, crisp guitar riffs and songs from Newcomb and unwavering beats from the Friel brothers (Chris on drums, Rick on bass). Standout tracks include the breathtaking “Adelaide”, the acoustic “Distress” and the heartfelt “Silver Lining”. McCready says he hopes the album can be released on vinyl soon (although there are backups left thanks to artists like Adele). Maybe a Seattle exit show or a little tour too. But, of course, with the pandemic, all of that is also on hold. But no matter what, the group is happy to get things going again.
“We’re always texting each other,” says McCready. “I’m really happy that we’re actually talking about it. I think it was a cool record and it didn’t get a lot of attention. It was a fun record to make and I love the songs.
The band’s debut album was originally released on CD via Epic Records. There’s been some push, but not a ton, but now, says McCready, it’s time. And while he’s certainly a big name, he’s not the only Hall of Famer. Heart guitarist Nancy Wilson makes a guest appearance playing and writing parts for the track “Riverwide”, and adding some background vocals on the LP. When the band was recording the LP, McCready says, Wilson was in Seattle and he invited her to play.
“Nancy being the wonderful, murderous woman that she is, she said she would,” McCready said. “I LOVE her. She’s one of the best rhythm guitar players out there and she doesn’t get the credit she should.
While the record is 22 years old, the process of putting it back into the world is brand new – two days ago. As such, what might happen next is still being considered. Either way, for McCready, all that’s happening now is gravy. Because what he always liked most about The Rockfords and the albums they released (indeed, there is the self-titled debut album and also a live album and an EP released for the members of the “Ten Club” by Pearl Jam – the status of these potential re-releases are still being considered as well) is the camaraderie and friendships that make up the five-piece band.
“Friendship comes out in the music,” says McCready. “The joy of all of us loving music comes out of this record.”