Rod MacDonald's first published novel, December 5, 2014, published by Archway Publishing & Robert S. Koppelman Available in paperback and Kindle at www.amazon.com Also available as a Nook Book at Barnes & Noble
Buy here for $15.99 USA $25.99 foreign with free shipping. If you'd like it signed, please write that in the notes.
To order by mail, send to Rod MacDonald, Box 3844, Boynton Beach, FL 33424
The Open Mike
By Jonathan Widran, Music Connection Magazine
As a music journalist covering a multitude of genres over the past 25+ years, I have interviewed and counseled hundreds of independent artists at varying places in their careers – some young, struggling, working day jobs and living gig to gig, others thriving in a competitive industry, still others returning to their passion as middle-agers. I have found that the ones who are serious about making a difference and touching hearts with their words and music will shut the world away, focus on channeling their music and give up almost everything for those moments where they can be onstage, connecting with one, two, hundreds, hopefully thousands of people. That’s the gritty but magical world - fraught with equal parts struggle, frustration, mini-triumphs and blissful revelation - that I happily yet fitfully immersed myself in as I followed the adventures (and misadventures) of Reo MacGregor, the talented folksinger and sharp wordsmith at the heart of Rod MacDonald’s brilliantly insightful semi- autographical novel The Open Mike.
The author, a renowned folk singer and integral part of the 80s folk revival in Greenwich Village, captures the neighborhood’s nuances perfectly - the sounds, the smells, the long dark wandering journeys into dawn – while imparting the sometimes dynamic, frequently scattershot and mundane but always compelling realities of Reo’s crazy, chosen world. It includes competitive musical hangs and shedding sessions; crazy, quirky characters; the necessarily impermanent relationships, including lots of romantic comings and goings, and one wistful, magical night with a stranger on a beach; opportunities offered, sought and lost; the wild randomness of casual employment; flopping in free spaces (in both NYC and Chicago); meeting legendary folk and industry figures; and living from gig to gig and open mike to open mike, waiting for his turn to shine or touch another soul or two. MacDonald makes us like Reo, care about his music and understand his soul via breezy yet meaningful conversations, the constant sharing of lyrics (including verses from MacDonald’s own “American Jerusalem”), his determination to succeed and his adamancy that law degree or not, he’s not chaining himself to a soulless, music-free life full of material comfort.
Though ostensibly grounded in the Greenwich Village folk scene circa the 70s, The Open Mike has a timeless quality that allows it to transcend any specific time or place and be relatable to artists and music fans of any past, present or future era or genre. As an added bonus, MacDonald follows the vignette-heavy narrative of the novel with a generous essay by Robert S. Koppelman, Senior Professor of English, Broward College called “Greenwich Village as Prevailing Hero.” It explains the long, fascinating evolution of MacDonald’s book, talks about his extensive musical contributions to the world and paints a deeper portrait of the changing musical scene of the Village which helps us understand the importance of the world that Reo is part of. Even without this bonus explanation, The Open Mike is truly a music- driven novel for the ages and a great extension of MacDonald’s already prolific creative output.
Review by Jonathan Widran,
Music Connection Magazine
Palm Beach Arts Paper
Originally titled “The Book of Rico,” the section was retitled with the less Spanish-sounding name Reo. MacDonald, who’s of Scottish descent, then chose MacGregor because it was the surname of Rob Roy, the Scottish folk hero of the early 18th century who was immortalized in Sir Walter Scott’s 1817 novel Rob Roy (and by Liam Neeson’s portrayal in director Michael Caton-Jones’ 1995 film of the same name). Still, the credo of “write about what you know” appears to apply to much of The Open Mike. The 10 short stories-turned-chapters of the opening section are a series of failed gigs, friends, and romantic relationships for Reo. The Greenwich Village location is implied throughout more than directly referred to, and the successes and failures come across as a thinly veiled peek into MacDonald’s introduction to the scene during the 1970s.