By admin on August 8, 2022
August 2022 Release
CHECK IT OUT – listen / stream it / buy it!
With this album Mick Kolassa has once again returned to his acoustic roots. No amplified instruments were used on any track, making this album purely acoustic. Once again working with producing partner Jeff Jensen, they have assembled a true Free Range Blues experience! Opening with Bo Carter’s 1931 gem “My Pencil Won’t Write No More” Mick let’s everyone know that this album is about fun! The second track is a remake of Mick’s song “Wasted Youth”, this acoustic version features the one and only Bobby Rush on harmonica. The great John Prine’s “Daddy’s Little Pumpkin” is next, followed by Mick’s “Used to Be” which features Doug McLeod on guitar.
Continuing Mick’s hobby of “uncovering” songs that fit well into a blues form, Hank William’s “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” is presented in a very different way. Doug McLeod also played on Mick’s original “My Woman She’s So Mean” – a song about a very troubled and troubling lady. Next, he is joined by the one and only Watermelon Slim as they celebrate a very bluesy version of Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock” – a song they’ve played together often.
Mick’s song “Why?” asks a critical question of an overly critical friend. The old standard “Sunny Side of the Street” lightens the mood, and the lightness continues with Mick’s song “Bless His Heart” – which is build around the classic southern put down. The album closes with Mick’s homage to cheese – of all kinds.MORE >>
Posted in News
By admin on July 15, 2022
Making A Scene!
Eleven albums in, bluesman Mick Kolassa is proclaiming a reset of sorts with his latest, I’m Just Getting Started. Having just moved to Memphis from Mississippi and having overcome his wife’s passing due to cancer and his own battle with COVID-19 in recent years, no one can fault Kolassa for announcing a fresh start. Kolassa has branded his style as Free Range Blues, a means of including sub genres of the blues and even faint touches of soul and jazz. Collaborating again with producer and guitarist Jeff Jensen, they’ve tapped into the well of Memphis session greats including keyboardist Rick Steff, and the modern-day two-piece Memphis Horns team of Marc Franklin and Kirk Smothers, among thirteen musicians or vocalists listed in the credits. Kolassa knows the blues idioms inside out, whether acoustic or electric and beyond being prolific and versatile, he consistently proves to be one of the genre’s better lyricists and writers, holding sway with his gravelly, burnished voice.
He begins with rollicking title track, stating “I’ve got tricks no one’s seen yet” typifying one of the blues most popular strains, tongue-in-cheek braggadocio with Brandon Santini (curiously not listed in the credits) pushing the tune along on his blues harp. The slow soul blues of “What Can I Do?” features the tasteful lead guitar of Dexter Allen, who otherwise plays bass on ten of the dozen tracks. The uplifting “Bigger Dreams” glides along with stellar piano from Steff and a sprinkling of blues harp. “Alibis and Lies” touches on jazz with a late-night vibe, a song about modern day tourist trap called Beale Street. It’s a cover of a tune originally done by Chainsaw DuPont and includes terrific guitar from Jensen.
Speaking of covers, Kolassa and Santini then dig into Sleepy John Estes’ “Leaving Trunk,” a tune forever associated with Taj Mahal. It’s the first song that Kolassa and Santini ever played together dating back many years. To their credit, they author a funky arrangement rather than mimicking Taj’s approach. Kolassa and crew tackle two other covers, John Hiatt’s “Real Man,” delivering with a mix of straight-ahead vocals and talking blues macho style, punctuated yet again with blues harp and Steff’s B3. The other is from the one hit wonder, Pacific Gas and Electric’s, rock hit, “Are You Ready?” Kolassa and crew slow the tempo, giving it a slinky roots-gospel feel, with strong backing vocal form Donna Jones Nickelson and well-articulated guitar lines from Jensen. It’s a standout track.
“That Kind of Man” and “Take Me Away” are both smoldering love songs with Jensen in the former using the wah effect tastefully, which is rare for any guitarist. In the latter, Kolassa hits deep soul territory, underpinned by Steff’s B3. “Trying Not to Let the Darkness” is a trademark minor key Kolassa slow blues, autobiographical perhaps given the issues he’s grappled with in recent years. As if to move away from the gloom, he ends with a couple of humorous tunes, “Hardhearted Woman” (“she’s got no soul”…”she could crush any man”) and one that might have been best left out, “How Much Can I Pay You?” about stripper who goes too far, but in a twist it’s the male who wants to pay her for putting her clothes back on. Smothers’ burning tenor sax solo redeems the tune somewhat.
That last one aside, this is a varied program of solid songs and instrumental performances that continue to show why Kolassa is one of our most vital contemporary bluesmen. If he is really just rebooting, the future is even more promising. ~ Jim Hynes, Making A Scene!
11 albums in and this white geezer with the blues is delivering testament with the title track. Moving beyond the normal scope of white boy blues, he veers into white boy soul and jazz as well, delivering it all with his usual aplomb and gusto. With a sound and feel like everyone snuck into Muscle Shoals after hours and was drinking hooch out of jelly jars when no one was looking, this might be the rocket fuel that ignites a whole new sound and fury. Solid. ~ Midwest Record
The Rocking Magpie
The Blues Comes in Many Shades; and Here We Add a Couple of New Shades To the Palette
This is Mick Kolassa’s 11th album which shows he already knows his way around The Blues, and even a cursory listen here shows what a talented singer and songwriter he is.
For some inexplicable reason I’ve always liked a title track to open an album; and that’s what we get here; the autobiographical and slightly tongue in cheek I’M JUST GETTING STARTED, where Mick takes us through every stage of his career from his Daddy giving him advice at the beginning through to him claiming
“I’ve got me lots of tricks
ain’t no one’s seen yet!”
and you’d better believe it, Brothers and Sisters!
The thing I like most about this album; and that’s not to say there are any weaknesses; is the way the songs are front and centre. Sadly; in my experience too many Blues artists let the music especially their guitar playing dominate proceedings; and/or fiddling around with the vocals in one way or another; Mick Kolassa on the other hand regularly switches things around to get the best out of his words and stories.
Track #2 What Can I do? is a delicious slow burner, about a love affair going nowhere and I likes it a whole lot; especially when his voice drops an octave on the last line of the chorus.
I don’t know what to call it; but Kolassa is the opposite of a ‘one trick pony’; as he uses a variety of styles to catch your attention; with the dark and moody Alibis And Lies being a N’Orleans shuffle with a cornet/trumpet slicing through like cut throat razor; and bizarrely (on paper) he follows that with Friday night Dive Bar re-make of Milk Cow Blues called Leavin’ Trunk which is as raw and authentic as the Blues gets in 2022; and you hardly notice the change in pace at all.
I think that may be why I’m liking this album so much; is Kolassa’s ‘authenticity’ throughout; he sounds like he’s either ‘living the songs’ as he sings them, or ‘actually lived the story’ he’s singing about.
Prime examples would be the punchy version of John Hiatt’s Real Man, or That Kind of Man and especially the sizzling Take Me Away which won’t leave a dry eye in the house.
I’ve played the rambunctious final track How Much Can I Pay You a few times now, trying to unravel what it’s ‘really about’ and I think it’s as simple as being a fun song about a ‘rough old girl’ in a bar that the band are playing, and the type of tongue in cheek, saucy song we associate with Muddy Waters or even Louis Jordan; and it’s an absolute doozy.
As I say regularly, there are no obvious singles here; and why should there be with so few outlets for coverage; but that doesn’t stop a couple of songs from standing out like a poppy in a field of golden wheat.
First of my options for Favourite track is the slow and intricate Hard Hearted Woman; which features some superb guitar and organ interplay that sounds like a fog that the lyrics cut through like early morning sunshine.
Then there’s the funky ass, harmonica drenched Bigger Dreams, which just might be my current ‘signature tune’ and Rick Steff’s piano playing is straight out of the Professor Longhair playbook too.
Which brings me to my actual Favourite Song; the stunner Trying Not to Let The Darkness In; which has more or less applied to me a lot in recent years, and will tug at the heartstrings of all so many people who get to hear it; and the construction is quite majestic too.
As we all know, the Blues comes in many shades; and Mick Kolassa has created a couple of new shades of his own here and may even be colouring outside of the lines occasionally; but if that is what it takes to create songs like these; who am I to complain? ~ The Rocking Magpie
By admin on July 4, 2022
July 15, 2022 Release
CHECK IT OUT – listen / stream it / buy it!
With his 11th album Mick Kolassa declares, I’m Just Getting Started, and what a start. Roaming through his “Free Range Blues” Mick serves up several subgenres of blues. Working again with producer Jeff Jensen, they have assembled a cadre of seasoned musicians to bring you a selections of ear opening tunes. Opening with the title track, “I’m Just Getting Started”, Mick declares that he’s got moves ain’t nobody seen yet. In the second track Mick steps away from the classic blues and brings you a Soul blues tune called “What Can I Do?” that features some stellar lead guitar work by Dexter Allen, who also played bass on ten of the tracks on this album.
Mick then asks listeners to dream “Bigger Dreams” and not give up on the ones they have. Mick and the band move in the direction of jazz with their cover of “Alibis and Lies”, a song about modern day Beale Street originally done by Chainsaw Dupont. Joining Mick on his version of the Taj Mahal classic “Leaving Truck” is Brandon Santini – this is the first song Mick and Brandon ever played together, many years ago, and they bring it with a new and funky groove. Brandon also joined Mick in presenting their take on the John Hiatt tune “Real Man”. The other cover on this album is a very bluesy/roots gospel take on the Pacific Gas and Electric rock classic “Are You Ready”.
The love songs “That Kind of Man” and “Take Me Away” are presented with a mixture of Soul and blues rock, while “Trying Not to Let the Darkness In” is one of Mick’s classic minor key slow blues songs. Closing out this new album are “Hard Hearted Woman”, a tune about a lady who should be avoided, to say the least, and “How Much Can I Pay You?” a comical song about a patron at a club who gets more than a little carried away with her celebrating.
All combined, these songs represent an expansion of the Free Range Blues Mick is noted for, and he’s just getting started!MORE >>
Posted in News
By admin on November 11, 2021
Unheralded bluesman Mick Kolassa, who lived for three decades in Mississippi before relocating to Memphis, makes good albums on a regular basis. His first Xmas one is better than good; it has the stuff to become a minor classic. Inventive makeovers of the usual Xmas picks and some strong original songs show the value of Kolassa’s slow-and-easy approach to singing lyrics. His weathered, imprecise voice aches with true-blue experience, even when he keeps a strong upper lip. The performance with its sharpest edge of emotion is his bittersweet tune “The Best Christmas Ever.”
Jazz & Blues
Mick Kolassa has been rather prolific in producing blues recordings. His latest is a recording of Holiday favorites with a few originals. Once again, he has collaborated with guitarist Jeff Jensen for this recording. Mick brings his vocals and guitar along with that of Jensen. Others on this session are Bill Ruffino on bass, Rick Staff on keyboards, and James Cunningham on drums. Selected tracks include Eric Hughes on harmonica and Marc Franklin on trumpet, while Reba Russell and Susan Marshall add backing vocals.
Kolassa is a pleasant vocalist enough, but in the context of the songs here, he invests his grainy vocals with considerable charm, as implied by the album title referring to Uncle Mick. The performances are handsomely rendered, with Jensen contributing some first-rate guitar, with others adding memorable solos. One doesn’t expect to hear a bluesy cover of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You.” Then, Kolassa delights before a Caribbean-tinged rendition of “Frosty the Snowman,” whose highlights include Franklin’s trumpet solo and Hughes’ harmonica embellishments. With a lazy-sounding backing, Kotassa sings about his love being there, making it “The Best Christmas Ever.”
Kotassa’s laid-back vocal provides just the right mood for a cover of “Merry Christmas Baby.” Jensen is especially outstanding here. “Jingle Bells” sounds like a new song with Jensen’s trebly guitar and a lazy funk groove followed by the light musical setting for “Winter Wonderland.” Franklin’s trumpet adds atmosphere to the genial delivery of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” At the same time, Kotassa sings more forcefully on “Christmas Morning Blues,” where his love has gone, taken the presents he bought for her, but she bought him none. It is a vibrant Chicago blues shuffle with Hughes adding a harp solo.
The closing track is “Beale Street Christmas Jam,” with all the band members fitting a classic Christmas song into this instrumental shuffle. It is a spirited close to a toe-tapping collection of bluesy Christmas songs sure to warm the Holiday spirits Ron Weinstock – Issue 399
When Mick Kolassa recorded Uncle Mick’s Christmas Album (Endless Blues Records) in Memphis, the temperature hovered around 95˚. If you live in the south and you plan to release a Christmas album, you are going to be recording it in less than frigid conditions. That’s perfectly fine in this case, because this may be one of the coolest Christmas albums you’ve heard in a while. Kolassa and company (Jeff Jensen – guitar, Bill Ruffino – bass, Rick Steff – keys, James Cunningham – drums, Eric Hughes – harmonica, Mark Franklin – trumpet, and Reba Russell and Susan Marshall – backing vocals) give this album a greasy, soulful yuletide feel. There are a lot of familiar tunes present, but unlike you’ve ever heard them before.
Opening with Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” Kolassa effectively delivers it as a soulful, slow blues tune. Next is a fantastic take on “Frosty the Snowman” that marries Memphis to New Orleans in a way that will have toes tapping and heads bobbing. Kolassa contributes a few original songs among the nine tracks, the first of which is the deliciously funky, slightly spicy “The Best Christmas Ever,” which is followed by a wonderful read of the blues classic “Merry Christmas Baby,” which features some superb guitar work.
Three traditional Christmas tunes follow: ”Jingle Bells,” “Winter Wonderland,” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” While none of these are usually considered to be “blues” tunes, Kolassa puts a very bluesy spin on all three songs. “Jingle Bells” has a old school, almost dangerous rock ‘n’ roll feel, “Winter Wonderland” strikes a loose-limbed, carefree groove, and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is a nice, warm R&B track that features Jensen on guitar, Franklin on trumpet, and Steff on a variety of instruments.
The last two tracks are originals. First is Kolassa’s rip-roaring blues rocker “Christmas Morning Blues,” where he wakes up to a house missing his lover, his car, and his Christmas presents. The closer is a lot of fun, an instrumental called “Beale Street Christmas Jam,” where the band members take turns fitting classic Christmas songs into a 12-bar blues shuffle.
Uncle Mick’s Christmas Album has a pretty high spot in my list of Favorite Yuletide Albums. Chances are pretty good that it will occupy a high spot on yours, too. Check it out. ~ Blues Bytes
Bman’s Blues Report
I just had the opportunity to review the most recent release, Uncle Mick’s Christmas Album, by Mick Kolassa, and it’s quite entertaining. Opening with Mariah Carey’s, All I Want For Christmas, and I think its a real solid cover. Never been crazy about pop music and Kolassa’s slow bluesy approach with Jeff Jensen on lead guitar, Bill Ruffino on bass, Rick Steff on keys and James Cunningham on drums gives this track a new, fresher life. Original track, The Best Christmas Ever, is up next with a funky R&B approach. Kolassa on lead vocal and with warm backing vocals by Reba Russell and Susan Marshall over cool piano and organ work by Steff set a nice stage and pinched down guitar soloing by Jensen adds spice. Johnny Moore’s Merry Christmas Baby really gives Jensen a chance to show some real nice riffs both bluesy and jazzy making it one of my favorites on the release. Tom tom laden rhythm gives Jingle Bells and whole new face. Get far enough from the music that you can’t hear the words and I defy you to determine that it’s Jingle Bells. This swampy, Dr Joh like approach is really cool and again, Jensen’s guitar work adds real shine to the apple. Very nice. Wrapping the release is a Jensen/Kolassa original, Beale Street Christmas Jam, a hot shuffle ala Gatemouth Brown style. Jensen always has great riffs, and here he’s complimented by Marc Franklin on trumpet (solo), Cunningham on drums (solo), Ruffino on bass (solo), Eric Hughes on harmonica (solo). This track will get your foot tapping. Excellent closer. ~ Bman’s
Reflections In Blue
It takes quite a bit for a Christmas album to get my attention…and even more for me to honestly like it. Mick Kolassa has done all that, and more. Uncle Mick’s Christmas Album is one of those things that I can see myself playing throughout the year. Memphis Blues through and through, the album offers a fresh take on some holiday classics, and a trio of new tunes that capture the Christmas spirit. Recorded in the 95-degree heat of a Memphis summer, the album features Mick, with some of the finest musicians Memphis has to offer, doing what they do best. The result is upbeat, soulful, funky, and absolutely respectful of the genre. Mariah Carey may strike a killer pose in her Santa suit, but Mick’s rendition of “All I Want For Christmas Is You” is, hands down, the best version of the tune I have heard to date. That is followed by “Frosty The Snowman” with a bit of New Orleans flair. Other classics include “Merry Christmas Baby”, “Jingle Bells”, “Winter Wonderland”, and “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”. The original tunes offer insight into what Christmas is all about. “The Best Christmas Ever” is a funky and soulful love song, “Christmas Morning Blues” is a reminder that not all Christmases are merry, and “Beale Street Christmas Jam” gives each of the musicians to strut their stuff. This album is sure to brighten your holiday season. Merry Christmas to all. – Bill Wilson
Mick Kolassa’s recently released holiday music collection, Uncle Mick’s Christmas Album is unquestionably one of the top titles in this year’s field of new holiday music records. That is proven from beginning to end of the nearly 40-minute record through its unique originals and equally enjoyable covers. Among the most notable of the originals featured in this record is its penultimate entry, ‘Christmas Morning Blues.’ This song is so fun in part because of its musical arrangement. The musical arrangement is a clear Chicago-based blues sound. The use of the harmonica and guitar immediately conjures thoughts of the best works of Junior Wells. At the same time, there is no denying the influence of B.B. King here, especially in the combination of the guitar line, the sound of the drums (thanks to the production) and even Kolassa’s own vocals. Kolassa’s vocals are so eerily similar to those of King through their tone and delivery style. This even as the picture of Kolassa on the record’s cover makes him look like a cross between a bluesy Santa and a perfect fit as a member of ZZ Top. ~ MORE >>
Normally I don’t like Christmas albums much, but ‘Uncle Mick’s Christmas Album’ will certainly get quite a few spins at the end of the year. An absolute must to get through the Christmas season! MORE>>
Michael Doherty’s Music Log
Sure, the holiday is over and it’s time to take down the decorations. But why not listen to a good holiday blues album while you pull down the tinsel and box up the bulbs? Mick Kolassa has just the thing, Uncle Mick’s Christmas Album, featuring a mix of covers and original material, all with a great Memphis sound. Joining the vocalist and guitarist on this release are Jeff Jensen on guitar, Bill Ruffino on bass, Rick Steff on keyboards, James Cunningham on drums, Eric Hughes on harmonica, and Marc Franklin on trumpet, with Reba Russell and Susan Marshall on backing vocals. The arrangements are by Mick Kolassa and Jeff Jensen. ~ MORE >>MORE >>
By admin on September 23, 2021
October 15, 2021 Release
This Christmas album was recorded in the 95-degree heat of a Memphis summer, we thought it would be cool. The album is 100% Memphis, every musician, engineer, technician, and guest call Memphis home. Once again Mick Kolassa teamed up with Jeff Jensen to produce a fun-filled and unique album. Combining some originals with Christmas classics the band put a Memphis spin on everything. Trust us, this ain’t your daddy’s jingle bells!
The album opens with Mick’s take on Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You”. It is delivered in a very Memphis bluesified fashion. Then the band took “Frosty the Snowman” right down Beale Street in a Second Line kind of way. Mick’s original “The Best Christmas Ever” is a fun and funky love song about a very special Christmas present.
The blues classic “Merry Christmas Baby” is followed by a VERY different take on the previously unbluesy “Jingle Bells” – the band brought this song to Memphis in a big way! “Winter Wonderland”, which provides some lightness to the mix, is followed by “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, delivered with an R&B feeling and featuring Rick Steff on multiple key instruments – including a Mellotron.
Mick’s blues rocker “Christmas Morning Blues” is a story of a Christmas that fell victim to a classic blues problem. The album closes with the band’s “Beale Street Christmas Jam”, in which the musicians each take a shot at fitting a classic Christmas song into a 12-bar 1-4-5 shuffle. All in all, we hope this album is as much fun to listen to as it was to produce!MORE >>
Posted in News