NY Times best selling author T.J. English weighs in on West Side Stories

“Having written a book called The Westies, which I’m told may have served some small role as inspiration for this music, I wish I could claim credit for its brilliance. But I can’t. What you experience while listening to The Westies debut CD is wholly original. Singer/songwriter Michael McDermott and his band follow in the tradition of Dylan and Waits and Springsteen, but they tread new ground. Lyrically, the ten songs on West Side Stories are haunting tone poems about loss and regret and trying to hang in there against insurmountable odds. The music is almost painfully intimate; McDermott’s vocals ache with passion. Accompanied by backup singer Heather Horton, who swoops in with ethereal harmonies or the occasional chorus of her own, the arrangements are graceful and profound. These songs will not only stir your emotions, they will make your heart bleed… Do yourself a favor, seek out West Side Stories, listen and absorb this music. You will feel as though you have entered the church of rock and roll, a place of great storytelling, humanity and emotional wisdom. Let The Westies take you there. 

-- T.J. English, New York Times best-selling author of The Westies and The Savage City



No Depression - The Westies, West Side Stories

No Depression - The Westies, West Side Stories

“[The Westies] make music that demonstrates how closely related inner city grit and grime is with the softness of a serene Appalachian mountaintop. ...‘West Side Stories is Americana music embedded in the rivers of Rust Belt cities with connections to Ireland, coal streaked miners, and dirt under their fingernails sharecroppers.”    John Ellis, No Depression

Lonesome Highway - The Westies 'West Side Stories' - Pauper Sky

"... [an] audio world that runs in the head like a gritty movie. Titles like Hell’s Kitchen, Death, Fallen, Bars and Devil set the tone for a musical cityscape that takes you into places you may not want to walk on your own. They tell stories that have their roots in a tradition of tales of romance and myth, of reality and truth." - LonesomeHighway.com

Music Review: The Westies, West Side Stories

"[The Westies] exemplifies what it means to put every inch of your heart and soul into your work. [The Westies] prov[e] that the art of storytelling in music is not dead and should be treasured when it actually does come around." - Tyler Hodg, PopShifter.com

The Alternate Root

Bruce Springsteen and Tom Waits scribed tales of the city. Their stories joined those of countless others who were looking through the grime and grit of inner-city windows, tagging their characters with street names and showing a people who took pride in the sweat-stained sheets and the dive hotels they called home. The Westies do not change the scenery too much on West Side Stories. Back streets and corner bars peopled with men and women who have goals beyond the grids of concrete that they grew up in, and still inhabit. The difference is that The Westies are not peering between rips in the curtains or falling through the cracks in the sidewalk. They are on in the inside looking out, and looking around at where they are standing while trying to find an exit route. West Side Stories defines the distinct lines between two sets New Yorkers…the ones who spent their whole lives getting there, and those who were born on the island of Manhattan and can’t wait to get out.

On the night that Michael McDermott and Heather Horton met, West Side Stories was set in motion. Michael knew that ‘all I ever wanted to do was write songs and tell stories, like my grandparents and parents did from a long Irish lineage. With that lineage came a proclivity for drink, for mayhem, and a wee bit of crime. I write what I know and what I know, is much of the time, ugly.’  The Westies album West Side Stories is a song cycle inspired by the real life Westies,  a ruthless gang of Irish mob punks that ruled Hell's Kitchen in the 1960’s and 1970's. The gangsters serve as a metaphor for the dark side that lurks inside us all. The unexplained forces that cause internal struggles, destroy relationships and leave us clinging to love as just a memory.

Michael McDermott’s words never put flesh to bar flies or lovable losers. The male and female characters walking his stories see themselves as being clear on where they are going and about the places they have been. Present time fades as the past becomes their story and the future holds their goals. The Westies swing open the door to “Bars” to show the life of a traveling troubadour who made the right decision, finding the light in the darkness. West Side Stories circles Roots music with a rock’n’roll band behind the wheel as they follow rhythms into swamp grooves haunted by misty fiddles (“Death”) and seek solid ground as two sexes look at options on the moving percussion and beats of “Fallen”. The Westies vocals are both male and female. The distinct voices share equally separate opinions and never perform as a duo or chime in for a duet. Lines are drawn and sides are taken. The album’s most tender love story comes when “Say It..” reaches the end of its journey, showing that the couple in the tale as just as surprised as the listener that things ended happily. A rushed chord strum hustles in “Trains” as its story materializes in whispered dreams and “Rosie” puts up a ring that acts as a wall for the guy that sees each sneer as a smile. “Hell’s Kitchen” opens West Side Stories on an New York City street. The characters have changed names and share dreams with the ghosts of past songs though they never manage to get beyond two answers to all their questions….’”Hell’s Kitchen” or heaven’s door’.    

The Westies will release West Side Stories on January 20, 2014 on AMAZON or iTunes

- See more at: http://www.thealternateroot.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2920:westies-wss&catid=208:what-s-trending&Itemid=268#sthash.yT6A5Z00.dpuf


Some songs just sound better this time of year and The Westies prove it. There is a charming wistfulness to their sound and to echo Elton, their sad songs really do say so much. They took their name from the infamous Irish American gang in Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan’s Lower West Side and their music contains the same raw quality and dark realities you’d expect from their inspirational namesakes. Frontman Michael McDermott possesses a fantastic mixture of Dylan’s gravely inflection, Waits’ unconventional characters, and Springsteen’s storytelling pen.

Arena.com : More NYC Indie Music News

* Normally every artist in this column is based in NYC, or at least the NYC area, but Chicago-based Americana band The Westies most definitely deserve a place here, as well. Why, you may ask? Well, let's start with their name.

The Westies was the name of an Irish American gang that operated in the Hell's Kitchen area of NYC from 1968-1989. Although they reportedly never had more than 12 to 20 members, they were responsible for roughly 100 murders. The band adopted the name as a metaphor for the dark side that lurks inside us all.

West Side Stories is The Westies’ debut album, and the entire project, which was released today, is inspired by the real life Westies. The band’s founder, and frontman, Michael McDermott, who once lived in NYC, explains, "All I ever wanted to do was write songs and tell stories, like my grandparents and parents did from a long Irish lineage. With that lineage came a proclivity for drink, for mayhem, and a wee bit of crime. I write what I know, and what I know is, much of the time, ugly.”

The band may call Chicago home, but The Westies, and West Side Stories, are pure NYC. Check out the song "Hell's Kitchen," and enjoy their NY stories.