Mike Nagoda – Outside The Box | Album Review

Mike Nagoda – Outside The Box

Self Released


10 tracks

Mike Nagoda hails from Toronto and is a champion of LGBTQ and disabled people. Born with Cerebral Palsy, he was unable to learn to play guitar traditionally. He finally learned how to play from Toronto Bluesman Brian Cober who developed a double slide technique and remained as Mike’s mentor until Cover passed in 2016. Nagoda recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of the development of Cober’s technique in 2021. He also won the 2020 Toronto Blues Society Talent Search and was Honorable Mention for the 2019 Amy Louie Grossman Music Scholarship.

Nagoda’s music reflects his support of those who are disabled and queer. His CD is a celebration of his being LGBTQ in a blues world where few artists express themselves openly. He hopes this album and his story will give others the nerve to tell their story. Born Roman Catholic, Nagoda is now an atheist; the guilt and shame he bore from his orientation under the church was too much for him and prevented him from being able to embrace who he is.

Mike’s Spectrum Blues Band is Nagoda on acoustic and electric double slide guitar, Hammond organ and vocals, Peter Johnston on electric guitar, Anthony D’Allesandro on electric and acoustic piano, D’Arcy Cain on bass, and Jeremy Ronson on drums and percussion. Nagoda wrote or had a hand in co-writing each of the ten tracks. He lists inspiration from artists like Robert Randolph, Buddy Guy, B.B., Freddie and Albert King, Muddy Waters, Albert Collins, Tito Puente and Stevie Ray Vaughn and from other queer artists Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Long John Baldry, Earl Thomas, Jason Ricci and Watermelon Slim.

Nagoda opens with “He’s My Man,” an up tempo shuffle expressing his pride. The vocals are solid and the double slide is wickedly cool sounding. Liam Ward adds some poignant harp here and on three other cuts. “Kingdom Of Heaven” follows, with Chris Birkett adding 2nd bass here.  This one was initially going to be a tome on America post-apocalypse but turned into a cut decrying white supremacy.  It’s blues delivered with a slick dose of punk and glam rock, including the perfunctory big electric guitar solos. Next is “P.R.I.D.E.”, a funky, rocking cut with backing vocals and rapping by Jesse Dangerously and The Dangerous Rhino. Some nice guitar work is featured here again as Nagoda sings emotionally of his pride. “Here To Stay” follows, a slow to midtempo blues with a cool vibe. “Busker’s Blues” offers up some traditional, slow blues with harp and Michael Keith offering up a guitar solo. It’s well done all around as Nagoda and the band offer up some cool  stuff for almost nine minutes; everyone takes a turn doing a solo.

The blues go to ancient Rome with the next track entitled “Oh, Maximus,” where Nagoda sings of the oppression of gays dating back millennia. This one has a jazzy, lounge feel to it as Nagoda bemoans the destruction of the relationships in the queer community. Ward adds some more poignant harp to the mix and the guitar/slide are interestingly added, too. Birkett adds backing vocals here and later on the title track. “Crumble and Fall” is a little boogie woogie with backing vocals and a nice groove. The piano plays a big role here in support- well done. Christian Ruiz adds backing vocals. Next is the title track where Nagoda deals with his life in church. He plays some more great slide here as he sings about the guilt heaped on him and others like him. 2nd and 3rd guitar are added here by Frank Cosentino and Nelson Sobral in this heavy guitar cut. “Conquistador” follows where Nagoda pays homage to Tito Puente, the famed Latin band leader and drummer. Everyone gets his turn again soloing; it’s a slick and vibrant cut. Rex Ruber plays some nice alto sax here and Robb Cappeletto gives us a cool and extended guitar solo, too. Birkett also adds some percussion to the mix for this one. The album concludes with “We Got A Party,” a celebration of all genders and sexualities. Horns are provided by Gene Hardy (saxes) and William Sperandel (trumpet) as part of this jumping blues track. Piano and slide offer some great solos and a shouting party of Nagoda and backing vocals take us home.

Nagoda is an apt spokesperson for LGBTQ and disabled blues, He is a fine musician who plays, sings and writes well.  He and his band and friends deliver ten super tracks with a diverse mix of styles and sounds. One hopes that other artists will be moved to openly express their sexuality in their music without fear of rejection. Kudos to Nagoda for his championing genders and sexuality in his music. It’s a fine album and deserves a listen by a wide audience of blues fans!

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