CD: 20 Songs, 60:11 Minutes
Styles: Contemporary Electric Blues Rock, Jump Blues
As a freelance writer and reviewer, I always enjoy good tips about my trade. Here are two of them from Lifehack: “Writing is about voice, personality and delivery…People are looking for honesty, not perfect prose.” The same principles can be applied to the blues as well. Only those with experienced, finely-tuned ears can critique musical technique and be correct.
The rest of us? We’re looking for honesty, not perfect pipes or performances. Keep this in mind as you listen to Crescent Moon Deluxe, the third album from Pennsylvania’s Mike Mettalia and Midnight Shift. Their vocals and blues-rock instrumental talent are considerable, though not superstar-level. What makes them stand out is their sense of humor and good natured-approach to the blues. Theirs isn’t “mean music,” as Stephen King deemed it in his novel Revival. Instead, it’s a homage to the happy days of the 1950s, including guest stars Jimmy Cavallo, a sax legend, and Sun recording artist Rayburn Anthony. Presenting over an hour of music, including thirteen originals and several under-recorded classic covers (e.g. T-Bone Walker’s “Description Blues”), they aim to keep you sock-hopping. The band’s specialty, in yours truly’s opinion, is jump blues.
Mike Mettalia and Midnight Shift were semifinalists at the 2006 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, and also competed in 2012. Their last two CD’s, Rhythm Rockin’ Boogie and 2012’s Midnight Sun, were both nominated for Best Self-Produced CD at the IBC. Lead man Mettalia, on harp and vocals, played with Crosscut Saw for thirteen years. He opened for Junior Wells, Robert Cray and the Nighthawks. Mike McMillan, on guitar and vocals, was a member of Crosscut Saw and the Tall Guys; more of his feats are backing up Byther Smith and rockabilly legend Billy Lee Riley. Paul Pluta, on bass and vocals, has been playing since 1968 and counts the Rolling Stones and Willie Dixon as primary influences. Drummer Tim Smith loves Johnny Winter and Buddy Rich, and was also a member of Mike McMillan’s band the Hi Rev Combo.
The songs below are the catchiest and most memorable, shining fully in Crescent Moon Deluxe.
Track 03: “I Don’t Remember” – Time for a swinging original tune about alcohol amnesia! When drink dulls one’s recollections, the lamest answer to accusatory questions is also the truest. “‘What did you do last night?’ I don’t remember. ‘Where did you stay last night?’ I don’t remember…One drink: I was feeling fine. Two drinks: Get your beer and wine. Three drinks: Well, she gave me a sign. Four drinks: I think I started crying. My head was spinning, couldn’t find the door. I don’t remember if I hit the floor.” Mettalia’s harp is magnificent.
Track 04: “Ranchero” – This surf instrumental from Mike McMillan combines the wildness of the waves with a Latin blues rock vibe. Don’t have a board? Stretch out your arms and act like you do. As usual, Mike’s guitar is the Cowabunga from Down Unda (thanks, Back to the Beach).
Track 07: “Jumpin’ with Jimmy” – Bringing back big-band sound is no easy feat, but legendary sax icon Jimmy Cavallo pulls it off with aplomb. This track is truly lucky number seven, the highlight of the twenty tracks on the album. Sing along with the refrain and do a little jumping, especially during the solos in the middle. They balance each other perfectly and that’s no lie.
Crescent Moon Deluxe isn’t perfect, but it sure is peppy, certain to chase one’s blues away!