Everyone loves an underdog. So the chances of a 40 year old singer/songwriter from Cincinnati releasing one of the best recordings of 2020 should be a cause for celebration. Most musicians have given up any hope of a career in music at 40. Fortunately, Arlo McKinley persevered and became the last artist signed by John Prine to his Oh Boy label prior to his death. Die Midwestern is one of the finest collection of songs in 2020. If McKinley was around in the 1980s, he would fit right in with mainstream rock-and-roll artists like Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp, Tom Petty or Bob Seger.
“Bag of Pills” has rightfully garnered attention as one of the standout tracks and was the song that convinced Prine to sign him. Selling pills so he can afford to take his girl out drinking is not the type of song you're going hear on commercial radio. This is old school, meat and potatoes music. These are not songs about driving a pickup to the beach. These are familiar subjects: love lost and found, pain and redemption, and the need to pick and leave in the hope of better things. But throughout is an underlying sense of hope and a search for something better. Die Midwestern immediately places Arlo McKinney among the more gifted songwriters on the Americana scene.