Mighty Mike Schermer – Just Gettin’ Good
Little Village – 2022
12 tracks; 52 minutes
Mighty Mike Schermer is a force to be reckoned with, garnering a nomination for the best Contemporary Blues category in the 2019 Blues Blast Awards for his previous album, Bad Tattoo. From the San Francisco Bay area, Mike has played with the likes of Charlie Musselwhite and Elvin Bishop, but it has probably been his stint with Marcia Ball that brought him to a wider audience. A triple threat on guitar, vocals and songwriting, Mike’s autobiographical “My Big Sister’s Radio” was covered by Tommy Castro and selected by Bruce Springsteen on his Sirius/XM show; on his latest album (his eighth solo effort) Mike wrote all the songs, collaborating with Kimberly Pickens on four, Felice Garcia on one and Steve Ehrmann on one.
Recorded at Greaseland Studio in San José and co-produced by Mike and Kid Andersen, the album features a host of Bay area talent: drummers Paul Revelli, D’Mar and June Core, bassists Steve Ehrmann and Jerry Jemmott, keyboard players Tony Stead, Chris Burns and Austin DeLone, sax players Terry Hanck, Eric Bernhardt, Eric Spaulding, Aaron Lington and Jack Sanford, trumpeters Jeff Lewis, Mike Kobrin and John Halbleib and trombonists Mike Rinta and James Cody Arnholt; Kimberly Pickens (Ms Kimmy) sings on four cuts and adds percussion and handclaps to another two, The Sons Of The Soul Revivers add vocals to one track, as do John Nemeth, Dennis Dove and Walter Pickens, while Kid fills in on anything else. Mike is, of course, on guitar and vocals throughout.
The set opens with the title track, “Just Gettin’ Good”, a title that might well apply to Mike himself! However, we soon discover that the term can be applied to foodstuffs that some might consider risky to eat, or to older love partners! A funky backbeat, four-man horn section and spiky guitar leads, a great start. Mike has shown before that he is a dab hand at soul music and that his voice suits that style well, and on “Leave More (Than You Take Away)” the gospel-tinged harmonies of the Sons Of The Soul Revivers add a gloss to the fine horn arrangement in which Eric Bernhardt can be heard on baritone and tenor sax – superb! “Spend The Night With You” harks back to 50’s pop and “This Is Where My Love Is” is a stripped-back ballad with just Mike’s gentle chords, keening organ and the rhythm section before we head to the Caribbean for “The Hungry Dog”. What these first five cuts demonstrate is that Mike Schermer can tackle roots music of all types with equal competence.
Mike admits that Albert Collins was one of his earliest inspirations and “Tired Of Travellin’” could quite easily be an Albert cover as Mike plays some typical Collins riffs over funky rhythms and the horns, while lyrically we are in the territory of the roadhound who longs to spend more time at home. Later on the disc Mike plays some more Collins licks on the slower-paced “Cook Up A Little Love” on which Ms Kimmy duets with Mike, adding a sultry element to the song.
Two cuts are much gentler: “Let’s Make Time For Love” is an overtly romantic tribute to the love of Mike’s life, well sung by Mike and harmony vocalist Dennis Dove; “Silence” is all about the end of a relationship: “I used to be your favourite song, your body tells me that it won’t be long, please just don’t sit there quiet as could be, your silence is killing me”. However, if you want a full-on rocker, try “Gypsy Ways” on which Tony Stead’s rocking piano leads the way, Mike’s rough-hewn vocals fit the song like a glove and his central solo is a great example of saying all that needs to be said in a concise yet exciting way. The oddly titled “Kimmy Kimmy Gimmee Gimmee” presumably pays tribute to Ms Kimmy who does not sing on this one but does add handclaps to the uptempo tune, as Terry Hanck delivers a brisk tenor solo.
Album closer “It’s Not Me, It’s You” places a new spin on a frequently used phrase as the band produces a border feel with Mike Kobrin’s mariachi trumpet well featured and Mike playing a solo that blends surf guitar with TexMex, the horns obviously having great fun with this one! Mike has the happy knack of writing some great lyrics: “How many days, how many nights, how many sad songs can one man write, how many sorry’s does he have to say to try and make the hurt go away?”
A good finale to a fine and varied album that is recommended listening.