Close your eyes and waste a warm afternoon on your porch, corncob pipe in hand. These songs might be going through your head. Portland's one-man folk machine McDougall is a capable banjo, guitar and harmonica player. His voice is decent, channeling Tom Waits and Mississippi bluesmen past. But his real talent is storytelling. He writes of a lonely desert highway in "The Travels of Frederick TollsPart 1." Channeling the experience of standing on the side of a road with a thumb in the air, he sings, "Just looking for a few more miles with the radio on."
Three instrumental jams with some boot-powered percussion bring out the airy Americana McDougall probably grew up listening to. They have that characteristic stompgrass sound, just begging everyone within their reach to drink and dance. The old-timey voice comes back and builds simpler structures. Tour narratives conjure images of fast trains thundering across hot prairies.
All travelers find their home at some point. But with all the stories still looking for a voice, it's a good thing McDougall keeps on keepin' on: "I know there's a place I need to be / but it's none of the many I've left behind me."
McDougall plays the VFW Fri., May 11, at 10 PM, with locals Bird's Mile Home and PD Lear. Free.