Mick Kolassa – Wasted Youth
Endless Blues Records
12 songs – 49 minutes
Veteran bluesman Mick Kolassa delivers a little joy and releases immeasurable pain as he joins forces once again with producer/guitarist Jeff Jensen and kicks 2020 to the curb with CD, an album that bears witness to a year of sorrow in which he lost his beloved wife, several close friends and relocated from Mississippi to Memphis, too.
A clever tunesmith and gifted guitarist who goes by the nickname Michissippi Mick – a mash-up of his birthplace, Michigan, and his former home in the Delta, this is the ninth CD he’s released since turning his back on the pharmaceutical industry and adopting a vow of poverty to play the blues – and an almost all-electric follow-up to his well-received, acoustic Blind Lemon Sessions.
A former member of the board of directors of the Blues Foundation, he’s donating 100 per cent of the net proceeds of this one to two of its most important programs: the HART Fund, which aids artists in distress, and Generation Blues, which supports youths interested in playing the music.
Mick penned 11 of the 12 tracks on this one with backing from an all-star cast billed as The Endless Blues Band – a roster that includes Jensen, Albert Castiglia, Brad Webb, David Julia and Anthony Paule on guitars, Rick Steff on keys, Bill Ruffino on bass and James Cunningham and Doug McMinn on drums. They’re augmented by Eric Hughes and Brandon Santini on harp, Victor Wainwright on piano, a horn section composed of Marc Franklin (trumpet) and Kirk Smothers (saxes) aided by Alice Hasen (violin), Vickey Loveland (congas) and Tullie Brae (backing vocals).
Recorded at Memphis Music + Arts and Young Avenue Sound, Kolassa delivers dark themes atop bright, contemporary blues chockful of deeply personal messages throughout. But despite the subject matter there’s plenty here to smile about – beginning with “Throwing Away These Blues,” an upbeat, uptempo, horn-driven pleaser that announces he’s finished taking gut punches with his hands in his pockets and eyes on the ground. Jensen shares a brief, but tasty mid-tune break with Steff.
The title tune, “Wasted Youth” – a medium-paced shuffle – finds Mick face-to-face with the realization that all folks of a certain age have to come to terms with: that when they finally start appreciating all they enjoyed about their younger years, it’s already gone. The highly emotional slow burner “It Hurts to Let You Go” recounts the highs and lows of a lifetime love affair, a theme that continues in “I’m Missing You,” a danceable soul-blues that brightens the message as it celebrates the good memories and looks forward to one day reuniting in the Great Beyond.
The minor-key “Easy Doesn’t Live Here” features fine fretwork from the youthful Julia as Kolassa puts a realistic spin on the pain all of us have to endure to get where we are today before the funk kicks in with Paule on the strings and the mood brightens for the love song “I Can’t Get Enough.” Wainwright joins the action for the soulful “Feeling Sorry for Myself” in which Mick says he’s going to “put my smile on the shelf” as he reflects on the downtime in his life without self-pity.
“Touching Bass” feels light and airy despite dealing with an extended separation from a longtime love before the only cover in the set, “Darkness to Light,” serves up a medley of War’s “Slipping into Darkness,” The Youngbloods’ “Darkness, Darkness” and the traditional spiritual “Wayfaring Stranger.”
Santini stretches out on the reeds on “My Mind Doesn’t Wander,” another love song, before the slow blues, “Pieces of the Past,” finds Mick reflecting on his life and flooded with memories as he downsizes for the move before. The disc concludes with “Edge of a Razor,” an acoustic number that pays tribute to hard-working women everywhere and features Kolassa, Jensen and Castiglia on guitars with no other accompaniment.
No matter what the medium, Mick Kolassa delivers heartfelt messages from the heart, and serves up a jewel with Wasted Youth. I loved it, and think you will, too!