Mick Kolassa – If You Can’t Be Good, Be Good at It!
Endless Blues Records MMK022020
12 songs – 42 minutes
Fresh off his all-acoustic Blind Lemon Sessions, which was recorded in Germany and released last summer, guitarist/tunesmith Mick Kolassa teams with blues-rock firebrand Jeff Jensen and members of the Memphis blues community for this interesting mix of what he terms “free-range blues” – a diverse set that encompasses everything from the sound of the city to gospel, too.
This is the seventh album in the career of Michissippi Mick – a nickname that fuses his Great Lakes birthplace with his longtime home – since he started easing himself away from a lifetime career in the business world in 2014.
A former member of the board of directors of the Blues Foundation, Mick usually tours with his Taylor Made Blues Band and occasionally works with Florida-based guitarist/bassist Mark Telesca – something that was impossible for this one, which was produced in partnership with Jensen and recorded at the legendary Ardent Studios in the Bluff City and Farmhouse Studios in Moscow, Tenn.
Kolassa handles vocals in his pleasant, relaxed tenor throughout, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar as he intersperses lightness and dark in his clever lyrics. Jeff divides his time between electric and acoustic six-string and percussion backed by Rick Steff on keys, Eric Hughes on harp, John Blackmon on drums and Bill Ruffino on bass. The album also includes guest appearances by Tullie Brae (backing vocals), David Dunavent, Brad Webb and Kern Pratt (guitars), Marc Franklin (trumpet), Kirk Smothers (sax), Alice Hasen (violin) and Willie “Too Big” Hall and Weston Caldwell (percussion).
The R&B pleaser “I Can’t Help Myself” – the first of nine originals – opens the action, beginning with a percussive acoustic/electric guitar intro before building intensity throughout propelled by the horns. Mick can’t resist a certain lady whose love is “just too good.” A choral intro kicks off a cover of James Taylor’s “Lo and Behold” before the band explodes, delivering fire and brimstone in its spiritual message.
The percussive title tune, “If You Can’t Be Good,” fires out of the gate, delivering a little downhome advice with a phrase Kolassa frequently uses at the end of conversations, before the sweet ballad, “A Good Day for the Blues,” describes a life in which one bad decision makes takes the good times with it. “I’ve Seen,” which follows, kicks off with a spoken introduction as it recounts encounters with the holy trinity of the blues and more, but becomes a lazy paced, harp- and fiddle-driven expression of desire to “see you lyin’ next to me.” What woman could resist?
The message continues in “We Gotta,” a horn-driven soul-blues, in which Mick and the lady should chase stars, close down bars and more. “Sweet Tea” offers up a toast to a Southerner’s favorite drink before sex is on the menu once more in the ballad “Slow and Easy Love,” which features tasty fretwork from Jensen.
Up next, “Good Night Irene” – not the Lead Belly standard – is a clever original that finds Kolassa phoning the lady in question, getting her answering machine and questioning whether she how her night out went with another man. The action ends with an exception, updated cover of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Who’s Been Talking” and “She Kept Her Head Up,” a loving tune Mick penned for his daughter, Kassi, during her battle against breast cancer.
A labor of love, Kolassa is targeting 100 percent of the proceeds from this CD to the Blues Foundation, splitting the funds between the HART Fund, which provides relief for struggling artists, and Generation Blues, which supports young musicians. Pick this one up from Amazon, iTunes or CDBaby. It’s good for your ears and your soul, too!