top of page

Bryan McPherson had enough and walked away from everything. Lockdowns, mandates, failed relationships, and record deals were left in the rearview of the remnants of Los Angeles. The Boston turned California singer-songwriter fled to Montana. Against the backdrop of snow-capped mountains and herds of wild elk, he spent the winter of 2022 penning his appropriately titled new album, Emigrant and The Winter of Death.

Armed with a pair of dynamic microphones, a laptop, and Emigrant Peak looming in the distance, he got to work. Unlike his last album, produced by Grammy Award-winner Ted Hutt, there was no flashy Hollywood studio, no Rockstar accompaniment, and no record contracts: just a man and a guitar singing his heart out in a room.
 
The album opens on the road with “Emigrant,” a haunting and surprisingly humorous(I won't spoil the surprise) lament about love lost. Bryan sings, “I know in my soul there's no going back.” This makes sense as the album progresses and Bryan ventures into backcountry of which there is no return. Emigrant is a soft opening, but this record pulls no punches. The politically charged anti-authoritarian, anti-communist, flaming meteor that is “Circle Road” comes next. Clearly, Bryan is not trying to appease the mainstream on this record, and if there were any doubt, one need only skip to the next track, the equally as polarizing and anthemic “Live Free or Die.” It is classic, angry McPherson—another blunt punch to the face of mainstream narratives. 
 
From here, we venture back into the realm of the heart with the gut-wrenching and explosive “Pain in the Universe,” followed by “One Human Being in the World,” a whistler of a song accompanied by the drone of what may be an organ in the distance. Here, we get a softer perspective on his journey and views on the oneness of humanity in the solitude of the wilderness of Montana. In “Yellow Stones,” Bryan returns to minor chords and dissonant melodies, painting a landscape of nothingness as he ponders human existence, the ego, and the roundness of the earth. In many ways, this album is a mashup of our times. Bryan reflects on so many theories that we never really know which ones he believes and which he does not; showing us an age when it's impossible for a person to know what is really going on in the world.

The 3rd act of this album is the convergence of 2 major themes: Freedom and Heartbreak. We begin with the dirge “Died Suddenly," where Bryan returns to controversy. He sings, “You gotta shoot it, so you can work, so you can eat, like a bottle of Oxy" drawing attention to Big Pharma's involvement in both the opioid epidemic as well as vaccine injuries and death. "All Our Dark" is a bitter-sweet song on lost love and the darker parts of both parties. It's sung at a whisper, but the effects are big-time feels. The climax, "The Ocean Goodbye," is a frenetic goodbye to California and coastal elitism with stream-of-consciousness lyrics and a pulsing urgency in the strum of the guitar.  “Lilac and Gold,” is beautiful, melodic, and sweeiping.  It opens opens with footsteps and melodies that remind me of dawn.  The journey is coming to an end. A new day has arrived. Peace has been found in a time of war. The shelter has been attained in Paradise Valley Montana. The "castle up on bluebird" is in fact the winter sublet where Bryan found a home during the "Winter of Death." 
 
The album concludes with the anticlimactic “Songs of Freedom.” Bryan leaves us with these words: "I can see clearly, songs of freedom in the breeze, and I can sing, free." We, the listener, have peered into the window of Bryans's soul, and he has once again offered us hope and resolution, even in the darkest of times. Sometimes you have to lose something before you can truly appreciate it. Bryan lost his freedom and went looking for it. In doing so, he rediscovered a country. Emigrant and the Winter of Death is a Master class on America.

More about Bryan McPherson 

Bryan McPherson was born and raised in Dorchester, a tough working-class neighborhood in Boston, Massachusetts. He began performing at house parties, open mics, and busking on the streets before finding a home in the Boston Punk Scene - securing notable opening slots for hometown heroes The Dropkick Murphys along with Rock and Roll legends Chuck Berry and Alice Cooper. In 2007, he collaborated with producer Hendrik Gideonse XIX and released the seminal Fourteen Stories, featuring appearances by notable musicians Woody Giessmann of the Del Fuegos, Jon Cohan, and Penny Larson. Tracks O.F.D.(Originally from Dorchester), Poor Boy, 100 Cigarettes resonated with local crowds, and Bryan was featured in The Boston Globe, The Herald, The Boston Phoenix, and Weekly Dig. 
 
Called westward in 2010, Bryan landed in Berkeley, California, and immediately began writing and performing around the Bay Area. He penned the notable “I See a Flag" on his second day in town and played shows with local legends Bobby Joe Ebola, The Mystic Knights of The Cobra, Jason White, and The Frustraters featuring Mike Dirnt of Green Day along with Steve Earle at Litquake in San Francisco. In 2011, Bryan was actively involved in the Occupy Wall St. movement performing extensively at Occupy Oakland alongside Amanda Palmer, Boots Riley, and Michael Moore. In 2012 Bryan released the politically charged “American Boy / American Girl” with Stateline Records. He once again received notable write-ups in The SF Bay Guardian, East Bay Express, and Huffington Post. At this time, Bryan began touring nationally full-time.  
 
By the time 2015 rolled around, Bryan was battle-scarred and ragged from the road after now touring internationally throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe, with prominent opening slots with the Dropkick Murphys, Blood or Whiskey, the Mahones, Tim Barry, and Cory Branan. Bryan took a much-needed break in the Sierra Foothills of Northern California, living in his friend's “Hut” while recording the brooding and atmospheric firebrand, Wedgewood. He was stoking the same angsty political embers of his last record, and Wedgewood was highly regarded and featured prominently in many national publications. 
 
In 2018, on a trip back home to Boston, Bryan revisited an old demo from his street performing and busker days and self-recorded and released Kings Corner. This album reflects heavily on his recovery from alcoholism and Opiate Addiction. All of the songs were written while Bryan was still in active addiction but not recorded until  15 years later while in recovery. The album was self-produced and recorded in an attic in Massachusetts. It was featured as one of the best albums of 2019 by The East Bay Express.  
 
2020 brought Bryan to new heights when he collaborated with Grammy Award-winning producer Ted Hutt of Old Crow Medicine Show and the Violent Femmes. Bryan hit the studio with Ted and an all-star cast of musicians featuring ex-Dropkick Murphy Marc Orell, Drummer Josh Heffernan of Dustbowl Revival, and Chris Murphy, a violinist who has played with everyone from the Waterboys to Mike Watt.
 
In 2021 After numerous failed attempts to collaborate with Hollywood Record labels to release “How to Draw Everything”, amongst intense pressure and stifling infringements upon his medical freedom, tyrannical mandates, and chaos in the streets of Los Angeles, Bryan packed up. He drove to Montana, self-releasing How to Draw Everything from a cabin in a town of 300 people while writing about his heartbreak and experiences in the madness of 2020 and 2021, trying to live as a free person. The result was “Emigrant and The Winter of Death” out on 1/19/2024   

bottom of page