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Jim Drake’s Entertainment Blog: Believing in what you believe

Portland musician-troubadour-folk-preacher McDougall returns to Hood River on Friday with a new CD that expands his regular one-man show into new territory: a full band sound.

By chance I recently picked up his previous CD, and it’s about time, too, this guy’s been here many times and you’d think I’d be familiar with some of his songs. The first song was such that it inspired me to pick up an instrument and figure out what was going on, as you’ll read.

The other epiphany was getting feeling that McDougall really seems to believe in what he’s singing about, especially with the gospel influences and references.

The full band album continues that trend and the elements of traditional and Celtic music is still loud and clear. I’m betting on a good show, no matter what you believe.

Hello and thanks for putting Hood River on your schedule! It looks like you have a one man band show happening, can you tell us some details on how you started and how you ended up to where you are now?

Actually, I will be doing a one-man-band set to open this show, but since its for the new record release, I have a full band that will also be playing the whole new album with me to finish off the night. I started doing the one-man show about seven years back, and still do it regularly, but since this album was recorded with a wider variety of instruments I decided to do a few shows playing it with a four-piece band.

True story: I just found your first CD and tried to play along with the first song “Coleraine.” But your instrument seems to go down another octave that's not on the mandolin ... is that an extended range banjo? What inspired you to play Irish music?

Oh yeah, "A Few Towns More," is the CD. That first tune was played with the six-string banjo. I might have used a capo on it, too. I love Celtic music and that tune really caught my ear when I first heard it.

Are there any other CD projects in the works and how do they differ from what you've already put out?

This new album, “Reaching For Some Light,” which is due out on May 20, is very different than my previous releases. It has a full-band sound and touches on a wider variety of genres. I basically let myself go with this one and start exploring some new territory and just have a some fun in the recording process.

Can you choose one song off your (new) album and tell us how you wrote it/what it means to you?

“Ten Speed” is one that started with the music. The music makes me want to get up and move, so I went with that when it came to writing the lyrics.

It's a song that I use as a reminder for me to get outside more. It's too easy for me to get trapped indoors, pulled by so many distractions, so this is a song of encouragement to break free from that.

There's some gospel influence in your songs. How does that seem to be fitting into the crowds you play to and to today’s political climate? Hood River was in the news for a hate crime against a Buddhist monk and now we're in the news again for a church sign that is being criticized for being anti-Islamic. What message should people be listening for in your songs?

I'm very sorry to hear about that happening. I often sing to crowds that hold very different beliefs than I do and there are definitely aspects of what I sing about that they may not be thrilled about, particularly when I sing about Jesus or something pertaining to God working in my life. But, for the most part, folks have not been noticeably bothered by it at shows.

My belief in what Christ has done for me and mankind is something I want to celebrate and I hope people might hear that in a lot of my songs, because there's some hope there, but I've learned that many folks hear what they want to hear. Some just want to dance.

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