Michael van Merwyk – Blue River Rising
Timezone Records – 2021
14 Tracks; 54 minutes
Although German guitarist/singer/songwriter Michael van Merwyk has released thirteen albums, he is not particularly well-known in the United States. However, those who listen to his latest release, Blue River Rising, are sure to become new fans. van Merwyk is an excellent singer, with a rich tone to his powerful voice. His songs are accompanied very simply by his dobro and the tasteful accompaniment of Gerd Gorke’s harmonica. In the liner notes he explains that there was no real production involved, and each track was recorded on the first take, leading to a very authentic sound.
Liner notes also indicate that during the seemingly endless lockdown of COVID many songs popped into his head including “new songs that desperately needed to be written.” This collection of mainly original tracks assures the listeners that they are not alone in their struggles. For example, ‘Keep Sinking” notes “I’m almost level to the ground and I just keep sinking,” and “Heal My Wounds” reveals “Night is falling–here comes the pain–heal my wounds.” However, the songs also offer hope, reminding the listener to “never give up on your dreams–things aren’t as bad as they seem” and “when things don’t go as they should, remember that the blues will do your heart good.”
The only fault some might find is that this album does not contain a wide variety of tempos or musical styles. However, those who appreciate simple, authentic-sounding roots/blues music performed by excellent musicians will clearly appreciate this album. van Merwyk wrote “if you feel a little better after you took a listen–well, I’ve done a good job.” It seems clear that he has done a good job!