Stacy Mitchhart – Live My Life
Dr Sam Records – 2014
12 tracks; 52 minutes
Originally from Cincinatti, Stacy Mitchhart has been based in Nashville for many years. This album is Stacy’s twelfth and this time around he has added some more roots style material to his usual soul-blues approach. The album was recorded in Nashville, fulfilling Stacy’s wish for “the band to record in the same room, to record to 2” analog tape, to use different instruments and old microphones.” Consequently several tracks feature Stacy playing cigar box guitars, creating a more basic style of blues than fans may be used to. Stacy explains that he wanted to simplify things and the result gives an interesting blend of the stripped-down style with bigger band productions more in his usual soul-blues style.
Stacy plays all manner of guitars, cigar boxes, banjo, ukulele and percussion and sings lead on all tracks: drums are by Darin James, bass by Michael Dearing, Emanuel Cole and producer Scott McEwen, keys by Mason Embry and Jacob Tipton (who also plays harp on two tracks, as does Rev. Zack Reynolds on one); horns appear on five tracks (sax by Jules Caldarera, trombone by John Hinchey and trumpet by Cory Distefano); background vocals are added by Zelda Sheldon to three tracks. Stacy wrote or co-wrote seven songs with one of his collaborators, Gary Vincent, providing two songs of his own and there are three covers.
Opening track “I Drink Whiskey” successfully incorporates all the elements Stacy was looking for with a solid core riff doubled up on harp, the horns intervening to beef up the sound and Stacy delivering some fine guitar flourishes on a cautionary tale of ‘the demon drink’. A cover of The Beatles’ “Come Together” opens with slide cigar box guitar and distorted vocals from Stacy but the basis of the original is very much present and correct. “She Knows What To Do” has an insistent riff at its heart and is perhaps more typical of Stacy’s music from earlier albums than the first two tracks. Gary Vincent’s “Voodoo Doll” has been covered by Hamilton Loomis, but Stacy’s take on the song is a little more relaxed than Hamilton’s whilst still retaining the tone of revenge implied by the lyrics. The horns appear on this track to good effect, as they also do on “Soul Stroll” which harks back to the era of classic soul instrumentals, especially when the organ takes a solo in Booker T mode; this is one of the standout cuts on the album.
Bill Withers’ “Better Off Dead” makes for a pretty depressing tale: “She couldn’t stand me anymore, so she just took the kids and went. You see, I’ve got a drinking problem, all the money that we had I spent. Now I must die by my own hand, ‘cos I’m not man enough to live alone. She’s better off without me and I’m better off dead now she’s gone.” Stacy’s wah-wah guitar and Jacob’s moody organ provide good accompaniment to this sad tale.
Stacy declares that he intends to “Live My Life”, a statement of middle age independence; the use of a three string cigar box guitar with primitive rhythm accompaniment aided by handclaps sets up a frantic pace over which Stacy and Jacob on harp solo effectively. A second Gary Vincent song brings some amusing double entendres on the amusing “I’m The Reason (She Walks That Way)”. The horns are back for this one with short solos for each player and are again featured on a fine, jazzy arrangement of Gil Scott-Heron’s “Legend In His Own Mind”. Stacy and pianist Mason Embry both join in with some gentle, jazzy work. Lyrically this song sits well alongside its predecessor as both deal with guys with large egos.
The final three tracks perhaps best reflect Stacy’s intention to strip things back to basics. “Boogie Bar & BBQ” finds Stacy working on lap steel, slide guitar, piano, tambourine and lead vocals (presumably not simultaneously!) on a frantic tune co-written with Gary Vincent, an invitation to come on down to a jumping joint on a Friday night – sounds great fun!
“Cat Bowl Blues” is named for the cigar box used which incorporates…a metal cat feeding bowl! This one is an instrumental with drummer Darin working up a head of steam behind Stacy’s guitar. The CD closes with “Worried Mind Blues”, a song that Stacy tells us he ‘wrote on ukulele in 20 minutes, recorded immediately in three takes’. It’s a slow country blues that could have been written almost one hundred years ago with its lyrics about working from dawn till dusk and certainly meets Stacy’s desire to strip things back to basics.
This is an interesting and varied album that moves away from Stacy’s usual approach whilst still retaining some of the soul-blues for which he has become known and is definitely worth a listen.