Review – Aaron McDonnell’s “Too Many Days Like Saturday Night”
You love everything about country music. It’s the plaintive style of the writing, and the moan of the steel guitar. It’s a baritone voice billowing out emotion in a way that no other music can make you feel. It’s the familiarity and warmth that a good country song conveys—even one that’s new to you—that makes the music so immediately inviting. But sometimes the predictability and sameness of country music is not always the greatest asset.
The music of Aaron McDonnell’s new album Too Many Days Like Saturday Night has all of those familiar elements that make you love a country song, but it also sounds like few if any of the country songs you’ve ever heard before. Instead of leaning on the bright-sounding chords that most country song utilize, which work in contrast with the often down and destitute lyrical themes, McDonnell makes use of minor keys and melancholy movements to deliver a listening experience distinctly unique to country, yet still graced with that warm familiarity we all enjoy.
Imagine a country music universe built around the moody experience of Dwight Yoakam’s song “1000 Miles From Nowhere,” or the dour music of 90’s Chris Issak. Then infuse it with just enough 80’s-inspired New Wave goth to make it even more unique and nostalgic. This is the world where the songs of Too Many Days Like Saturday Night reside, and it’s as transportive as it is entertaining.
Aaron McDonnell is no new kid on the block. He’s been making music full time since 2013, and playing in country bands since way before that. He released an EP a year between 2014 to 2018, each containing quality throwback honky-tonk country music like the stuff he plays in the clubs around Austin, TX. Originally from Oregon’s Willamette Valley, he first began playing country in Seattle in bands like Gin Betty! and The Grandtours named after the famous George Jones song.
But Too Many Days Like Saturday Night feels worlds apart from all of Aaron McDonnell’s previous exploits, or really anyone else’s. Orville Peck may also come to mind for some, but McDonnell’s efforts are much more earthen and authentic, even if there is a lot of wetness in the vocal and guitar signals, giving the music that faraway feel. This also feels like a foundational shift in McDonnell’s career. Previously appearing short haired and clean shaven on his covers, now the bushy hair and mustache symbolize a new era for his music to go along with a full-length effort to anchor it.
At it’s heart though, Too Many Days Like Saturday Night is still just Texas honky tonk music. “Hill Country Saturday Night” with it’s punchy two-step reference could have been written by Dale Watson, while songs like “Tell The Devil” and the title track reference the restlessness of the honky tonk lifestyle, and the yearning to settle down, despite inner demons getting in the way.
There are also some more conventional songs to keep the album sensible, like the swingin’ “1000 Kisses,” and the drivin’ “Born To Leave.” Again, it’s about striking an auspicious balance between the familiar and the unique that render this album uniquely intriguing, and an excellent selection for evening listening during a sullen mood or a lonesome Saturday night.
With his band the Neon Eagles, and his wife Dani McDonnell singing backup, Arron McDonnell turns in eleven original songs, and an interesting “demo” version of “Tell The Devil,” that define a new turn in McDonnell’s career, and an under-explored approach to country that gives the music an immediacy and vitality that sometimes the same old country song just can’t achieve.
1 3/4 Guns Up (8/10)
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Purchase from Aaron McDonnell
February 5, 2022 @ 11:13 am
The Orville Peck comparison makes sense with how reverb soaked the music is, but this is more my speed. I like Peck’s music, but his voice turns me off more often than not.
February 5, 2022 @ 1:01 pm
Thanks for the review trig. Guy rips. (Like jeremy pinnell)
Are we gonna get a review of muscadine bloodline’s new album? I know you can’t review everything, just wondering if that’s in the works or whatever.
February 5, 2022 @ 1:06 pm
Muscadine Bloodline’s album is being considered for review, yes.
February 7, 2022 @ 8:56 pm
I think i’m pretty picky and I didn’t absolutely love any albums last year but dispatch to 16th ave I’m loving so far! I’d be really interested to hear your review.
February 5, 2022 @ 1:46 pm
He is okay, guess I have to get use to his voice oh and by the way congratulations to Dolly Parton for getting nominated in the rock and roll hall of fame, she deserves it, with a new album and book , and a new cook ware line with Duncan Hines, Dolly just does it all!
February 5, 2022 @ 1:47 pm
Born to Leave gives me more Moonpies vibes than Orville Peck, Dwight, or Chris Isaak. Having seen all three live, you’ve set the bar high with those comparisons Trig.
February 5, 2022 @ 1:54 pm
Well, “Born To Leave” was one of the songs that I referenced as being “more conventional,” and included it here as a rare third example to give people a different taste of McDonnell’s music. The comparisons are references to the sound of this album, not necessarily in the live context.
February 5, 2022 @ 1:49 pm
Thank you for showcasing hom on here. I really enjoy the title track. Looking forward to hearing more. Would love to catch a show next time I am down that way.
February 5, 2022 @ 2:28 pm
Pretty dang good stuff
February 5, 2022 @ 3:56 pm
Holy shit this is good!!!
This kind of reverb soaked production isn’t usually my speed (I love Dwight but not crazy about Thousand Miles From Nowhere). This album has plenty enough country to it that I personally don’t find the reverby sadness overwhelming.
February 6, 2022 @ 5:03 am
This has always been my favorite “sound.” Thanks for the heads up on this one.
February 6, 2022 @ 7:52 am
I’m not sure what I think about the production on this. You hear what sounds like country music, but the reverb and vocals way up in the mix makes it a bit strange. It’s like walking into a tunnel and hearing a band playing on the other end. I’ll give this a few listens to see if my brain wraps around it, but I’m wondering if maybe he would have been better off just recording recognizable sounding good country music from the get go.
February 9, 2022 @ 12:15 pm
I’m a huge fan of Aaron’s and I dont totally disagree with your opinion here. The best part though is if you’ll go back to his Battle Bend and Lucky Me albums you’ll find the same tracks in their more raw and natural state. And by gawd they are fantastic!! This is still a nice reprieve from the more traditional sounds and he certainly is gaining some momentum here! Thanks for the review Trigger.
February 9, 2022 @ 12:44 pm
I actually went to Apple Music to grab this album to give it some more listening time and found that I liked his older albums better. Thanks for the tip though.
February 6, 2022 @ 8:53 am
Been listening to Aaton since he put out Lucky Me. Love his voice and the sound he’s created. Really excited to see him getting some more attention and looking forward to what he comes out with next
February 6, 2022 @ 6:41 pm
I absolutely love this, it would sound amazing on a long l night drive.
February 6, 2022 @ 7:27 pm
I remember thinking he was a retro act similar Zephaniah and out of nowhere he released Asking a Whole Lot of This Heart, was a left turn I was willing to take.
February 7, 2022 @ 12:23 am
Yeah, I liked that!
I agree with Casey……great for a long night drive.
February 7, 2022 @ 12:39 am
Damn. When I find albums I like, I want a CD for the vehicle and the record for the house. Do you know if this will be released on vinyl?
February 7, 2022 @ 8:52 am
Right now it’s very hard for independent artists to even get an opportunity to press vinyl. And when they do, it’s often a 6-9 month wait time. Don’t know if there are any plans for vinyl for this title.
February 8, 2022 @ 10:44 am
Off topic, but anybody else still waiting on the Mike and The Moonpies presale vinyl? I ordered mine right when they put it up and haven’t heard a dang thing from them… i even reached out but no reply. I thought maybe they would ship out all the merch from the bundle, but no.
February 9, 2022 @ 9:26 pm
According to an Instagram post from them on December 8th, it was finally being manufactured, so it should be on the way soon.
February 7, 2022 @ 8:27 am
Dang I’m hearing late 80’s to early 90’s sounds of country and western rock. Even a little REM reminders here and there. Refreshing in an older way and easy on the ears.
February 7, 2022 @ 3:23 pm
Pretty good album.. I’ll give it a few more spins and see how long it stays in rotation. Will definitely check him out live if I can..
February 8, 2022 @ 2:23 pm
This is really good. Thanks for the heads-up. Does he gig around Austin much? How have I not seen him? I guess that’s why I read you. 🤘🏻
February 8, 2022 @ 5:15 pm
uhh,i’ve been listening that song -the dawn- all day…sooo good..sounds like a mix of the early mavericks,chris isaak,dwight yoakam…my favorite song this year so far…
February 8, 2022 @ 8:58 pm
kinda looks like alan jackson, and a nice country sound. nice music
February 9, 2022 @ 9:17 pm
Dude seems legit. My favourite breand
February 10, 2022 @ 8:51 am
Aaron is the f’n best, and this record rips!! It’s always been a mystery to us how he is not up there with the big dogs. Good review, absolutely amazing that Trig wrote about an act from Austin and didn’t take opportunity to trash our city 🤷♂️. Could he be getting soft on us?
February 10, 2022 @ 9:19 am
I don’t “trash” Austin any more than I “trash” music. I love Austin and I love music. That is why I criticize it, because it’s worth caring about, and I want it to grow and get better, and sometimes that takes raising your voice, or flipping a table. Besides, if you’re actually honest with your opinions, when you have something nice to say, people actually believe it, and heed it.
February 12, 2022 @ 8:19 am
I didn’t mean to distract from a good review of a great album. Pointing out the fact you didn’t throw in a jab at Austin was meant to be a compliment .
Everett Byrom III
March 17, 2022 @ 1:27 pm
Ethereal journeys down Texas dirt roads, on the way to God knows where and who cares for that matter. Reverb delivers me to that destination as my imagination travels any number of places simultaneously and this album has it in spades. I grew up in those South Texas dance halls and this is The. Real. Deal. It took me right back to Frio County in a ’74 Dodge doing about 30 mph, driving aimlessly. All the best to Aaron and his posse. And BTW, FB ads work and what led me here. I’m in Austin and was unfamiliar with Aaron so many thanks for this great article, I look forward to catching them live.
Everett Byrom III
March 17, 2022 @ 2:41 pm
Chris Isaak is mentioned but please let us not forget who was responsible for that sound. Jimmy Wilsey