Swing Suit Records MMK032016
12 songs – 49 minutes
Mick Kolassa is one of the most beloved figured in the blues, and for good reason. As he did with his previous album, Ghosts Of The Riverside Hotel, the singer, acoustic guitarist and tunesmith is donating 100 per cent of the net proceeds of this CD to the Handy Artists Relief Trust, which aides bluesmen in distress and is better known as the HART Fund, and Generation Blues, an outreach program for young musicians, both by the Blues Foundation, where he’s also on the board of directors.
But this is not simply a charity production for Kolassa, known as “Michissippi Mick” because he hails from Michigan but is now based in Mississippi. He enjoyed a successful career in the pharmaceutical industry and now works as a consultant to the industry, but his true love – as always – has been the blues and the people who support it, both on stage and off, and he’s paying it forward.
Named the tiny hamlet where he now lives not far from Oxford, Taylor Made Blues is produced by Jeff Jensen, one of the true young talents in the blues. The nine originals and three covers it contains touches on everything from front-porch country blues to soul with a homey feel as well as just about everything in between. Each well-crafted song delivers words of wisdom, all with deep feel.
Several top talents contributed to the project, including guest appearances by Victor Wainwright, the current Blues Music Association Entertainer Of The Year, and guitarist Mr. Sipp, billed under his Christian name, Castro Coleman, and the BMA current trophy winner for album by a new artist.
The lineup includes Jensen on acoustic and electric guitars, Bill Ruffino on bass, James Cunningham on percussion, Chris Stephenson, a former member of Joe “King” Currasco And The Crowns, on keyboards, Colin John on lap steel, resonator and baritone guitars as well as baby sitar and Eric Hughes on harmonica. Reba Russell and Tullie Brae provide backing vocals, as does Deb Landolt, who’s featured on one cut.
An uptempo riff on resonator and rapid military beat kicks off “Baby Face Louise.” It’s a sprightly love song about a woman who couldn’t be matched if you searched worldwide. Hughes’ harp runs are brief, but sweet as he and John propel the song forward. The sound slows for the cover tune, “Taylor Made Blues,” which describes life in a small town. Mick’s rich baritone vocals indicate he’s in absolutely no hurry as he waits for the sun to come out as Jensen shines on six-string. He no longer has “truck with the city./Can’t stand bein’ in a crowd./Yeah, you might find good people there/But it’s too damn loud.”
A reworking of Graham Nash’s “Prison Song” – a haunting farewell from a friend who’s about to go behind bars for selling marijuana – gets new references about its legality in Colorado and Oregon. It precedes the original “I’m Getting Late,” a humorous take on playing multiple gigs on the same day and partying too hard at an advanced age. It’s delivered atop a stop-time beat with Wainwright in full control on the keys.
The funk is delivered full-force in “In The Day,” which harkens back to the ’60s with references to Howdy Doody and Shirley Temple as it insists “the past you’re dreamin’ ’bout is a lie” before Kolassa doffs his cap to salute blues musicians and fans alike in “With Friends Like Mine” atop an island beat. Stephenson’s slow-paced piano shines during a cover of Townes Van Zandt’s somber “Lungs,” about chasing false dreams, before John’s lap steel and Landolt’s accompanying vocal drive the uptempo “Keep A Goin,” a message to fight through adversity.
“Left Too Soon,” about the sudden loss of a friend and associated regret about things left unsaid other things not done, precedes a cover of the Temptations’ Motown classic “Can’t Get Next To You,” delivered with blue-eyed soul feel. “My Hurry Done Broke” revisits the aging theme, this time focused on being in the path of a younger person on the sidewalk who’s in a rush to pass, before another song of loss, “Raul Was My Friend,” concludes the set.
This is a beautiful album on many levels. It’s a labor of love that pays forward gifts received from the blues and the folks that create it while delivering straightforward, homespun messages about life in general that might seem superficial to some, but relate to others on a much deeper level. Available through Amazon, iTunes and CDBaby, it’s highly recommended.