Volume 2: 16 tracks; 43 minutes
Michael Packer was an ambassador for the blues, particularly in New York, and was at one time a contributor to Blues Blast. Michael’s earlier life involved alcohol and drug abuse, prison and homelessness and before he died in 2017 he recorded his story, in words and music, over the course of three albums. Volume 1 was reviewed for Blues Blast by Steve Jones back in 2014
and Volume 3 by Marty Gunther in 2017
However, Volume 2 somehow never reached Blues Blast but now the entire collection has been re-released in a triple CD set. This review therefore concentrates on Volume 2 which takes us from Michael’s release from Rikers Island prison to his recovery from addiction and time working with Honeyboy Edwards.
Michael’s narrations hold nothing back about how desperate his life was at this time and he does not hide his bad deeds, yet we empathize with his struggle and eventual return to a sober lifestyle, achieved mainly through putting as much effort into his music as he had done getting high, as recalled in the narration “Recovery”.
Musically most of this second volume features electric tunes with saxophone adding to the enjoyment. “The Letdown” is a very good starter, almost country-rock in feel, and “Bleeker Street” celebrates Michael’s move to concentrate entirely on his music after a failed relationship, the sax ecstatic in the solo – good stuff. Later on the disc there is a live version of “The Thrill Is Gone”, played after narrative reference to 9/11, and a live track from Honeyboy Edwards’ last show when Michael’s band was backing him.
Unfortunately there were no musician credits on the package sent for review and the sax player certainly deserves a mention on the tracks name-checked above. The overall package stands as a fine memorial to a man who overcame his issues mainly through the power of the music he played, hence his mantra – “I Am The Blues”.