Johnny Gallagher’s career has been peppered with triumphs. His resume brags a Tony Award for his role in the Broadway musical Spring Awakening. He also landed roles in Green Day’s critically acclaimed American Idiot, and the cult HBO series The Newsroom. Conversely, Gallagher was unable to rest easily on his attainments. Returning to music, his first love, Gallagher composed, recorded and is set to release his debut album Six Day Hurricane on January 15, 2016, on Rockwood Music Hall Recordings.
I know, I know. We’ve heard this “actor turned musician” story before. However, don’t be so hasty to lump Gallagher into a collection of attention-pursuing narcissists like Bruce Willis or Shaq (who was an even more extraordinarily reprehensible athlete-turned-actor-turned-rapper). Six Day Hurricane could stand on its own, sans Gallagher’s aforementioned reputation. Although he is an actor, he is also a particularly capable musician.
One could also deduce from the content of the album that he is rather lonely. For example, straightforward opener “Bessie I Don’t Blame You”, emphasizes the subject matter of isolation and introverted living. The pointed lyrics, which rest comfortably over the Chuck Berry guitar riffs, focus on drinking alone, unrequited love, and a bachelor pad. The “do what I want” verses give way to an escalated breach, with the Johnny Cash verses making way for a Johnny Rotten breakdown, yielding middle fingers that seemingly mask a broken heart.
The red eyes and broken hearts transcend through the Old 97s-style “Two Fists Full”, and into “Sarasota Someone”, a more tempered and melodic songwriter track in which Gallagher dreams of a warmer, beach-bunny life. However, throughout the build of the album, hidden amid the melancholy, Gallagher shines touches of light on growth and self-evaluation. With a Ryan Adams outside of the box approach, “Dead For A Year”, takes a slanted and hopeful look at transitioning into adulthood, and the fears and anxieties that accompany the process. The following track, “Dangerous Strangers”, bookends the previous track’s optimism with reflections on a relationship that has torn the narrator apart. The pair uniquely manages to show both the pros and cons of love in one quick burst before transcending into the end of the album, which focuses heavily on self-image.
With a talent for spinning an expression and crafting scenery with novel-like descriptions, Gallagher’s debut has set the bar high for his budding career. Six Day Hurricane perfectly navigates Gallagher’s narrative in a method that is almost episodic. If the Americana scene is fortunate, Gallagher will stick around for a lengthy and storied legacy.
I know I hope he does.