Livestream Review: McGuffey Lane

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Material: John Schwab knows how to adapt to change. Forty-four years ago, he was booked as the opening act for McGuffey Lane at a house show on the campus of Ohio State University. Following an impromptu jam session on stage with the headlining band, he became their lead singer and primary songwriter. It was a moment in time that changed the trajectory of McGuffey Lane forever. Since then, Schwab's songwriting has been essential to a live sound that is typically a mixture of heartland rock, folk-rock, and country-rock. Since the quarantine period began, the artist’s live adaptations of McGuffey Lane songs like “Bert” and “Day By Day” have been performed solo in an acoustic setting.

Musicianship: Although John Schwab has been the creative force behind the majority of McGuffey Lane’s studio releases, his bandmate Molly Pauken has become a mainstay in the group’s songwriting process as well. Without the capability of playing their songs in front of a live audience, Molly and John teamed up during the month of May to present a virtual performance of vocal harmonies and dueling guitars to their fans. It was meant to be a prelude to a series of virtual shows during the summer. Unfortunately, Pauken was unable to attend this August show. Nevertheless, John Schwab offered an inviting presence and a string of feel-good country ballads, like “Stay In Love With You.”

Performance: One of the first songs Schwab played was a bluegrass composition co-written by Pauken called “I Am Who I Am.” His country's licks during this performance set a mood of joyful nostalgia—especially when he encouraged his viewers to sing along. That performance set the table for “Jamaica In My Mind,” with Schwab's happy demeanor matching the subject matter and the arrangement of this Southern rocker quite well.

Summary: John Schwab played 10 unplugged versions of McGuffey Lane songs over the course of a one-hour broadcast. In the wake of a global pandemic, feelgood tunes like “Yesterday” resonated in somewhat of an uplifting manner. The band’s loyal fanbase made their presence felt as they accounted for thousands of views just moments after the show began. Schwab acknowledged his virtual supporters personally by engaging them in sporadic Q&A sessions throughout the evening. Overall, this Livestream show served as a good adaptation of the live concerts that McGuffey Lane fans used to experience before quarantining became the new norm.