Press & Reviews

CD Reviews – They Call Me Uncle Mick!

Hot Wax Album Review by the Rock Doctor

Mick Kolassa is one busy dude. I just reviewed his I’m Just Getting Started last month, and he’s already back with another one- must’ve recorded them at the same time.  They Call Me Uncle Mick is a return to Kolassa’s acoustic roots, with no amplified instruments used on any of the tracks- just Mick and his guys having a whole pile of fun.

As with his other records, The Call Me Uncle Mick is a likeable blend of originals and some very interesting covers.  Kolassa has made quite a hobby of uncovering songs that fit well into a blues form. He did it with The Beatles’ Help on his Blind Lemon Sessions disc, and he does it here with a startling version of Hank Williams’ I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry that might actually make you cry.  Other covers here include Joni Mitchell’s Woodstock (with a guest appearance by Watermelon Slim), John Prine’s Daddy’s Little Pumpkin, the old standard Sunny Side of The Street and Bo Carter’s 1931 gem My Pencil Won’t Write No More, which kicks off the album in fine style. At the other end he closes with a bit of fun called The Cheese Song.

As a singer Mick reminds me somewhat of Dr. John and the band as a whole swings with a natural ease, making TCMUM a blast to listen to.  With his producing partner Jeff Jensen Kolassa has assembled another true Free Range Blues Experience.  In a lot of ways it’s the opposite of the Orphan Jon album just reviewed but it’s just as valid a blues experience.  Wasted Youth is a remake of one of his own tunes and includes the legendary Bobby Rush on harmonica.  One of the best original songs on the album is the original My Woman She’s So Mean which will have some people saying “I think I know her” and others thinking “I used to live with her.”

The final word on They Call Me Uncle Mick is it’s a relaxed, jaunty and fun blues listening experience and, like his other albums, well produced to boot.  It sounds like everyone had a blast playing these songs, and you’ll find that as you listen some of that spirit will rub off on you too.  And as with his other albums, 100% of the net proceeds go to The Blues Foundation.   I’ll be playing this in the car on my way to work tomorrow, and I’ll walk in the door with a smile on my face because of it… you can’t beat that. ~ John Kereiff, The Rock Doctor


Le Zicazine

Mick Kolassa is undoubtedly one of the most prolific artists on the contemporary blues scene and only a few weeks after presenting his new electric album, “I’m Just Getting Started! », it is an entirely acoustic effort that he reveals this time with « They Call Me Uncle Mick », a disc for which he has once again brought together the gratin of Deep South musicians! Determined to do without any amplified instrument, the singer and guitarist invited his faithful accomplice Jeff Jensen on guitars and percussion, but also Rick Steff on piano, Carl Caspersen on bass, Tom Leonardo on drums, Eric Hughes on harmonicas and Alica Hasan on violin, also offering the presence of guests like Doug McLeod on guitars, Watermelon Slim on vocals and on harmonicas, Chris Gill and Brad Webb on slide, John Whittemore on vibraphone and, last but not least, Bobby Rush who places his harmonica on an acoustic re-reading of “Wasted Youth”, the tittle track of the album that Mick Kolassa came out a year ago. Elegant in his compositions, very precise in his covers, this bluesman with a very vast culture will offer us a great tour of the works of Bo Carter with “My Pencil Won’t Write No More”, John Prine with “Daddy’s Little Pumpkin “, Hank Williams with “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” or Joni Mitchell with “Woodstock”, but also a breathtaking version of the standard “Sunny Side Of The Street” and of course original pieces like “Used To Be” , “My Woman She’s So Mean”, “Why? » and « The Cheese Song », a piece in which he makes tribute to cheeses of all kinds. Totally devoted to the cause of a blues that he has anchored in the depths of his heart and soul, Mick Kolassa sings and plays with constant spontaneity but more than just an artist, he is also a human of incredible kindness and infinite generosity that we can meet on a daily basis in Memphis, whether in a concert hall where he goes to applaud his peers or in a club where he officiates as a judge during the ‘International Blues Challenge. And as for each of his albums, all profits from the sale of “They Call Me Uncle Mick” will be donated to the Blues Foundation to supply the funds intended for the health of musicians and the training of young people. Another reason to get two copies, including one to offer for example! (translated from French!) ~ ZiCaZic.com


La Hora del Blues

TRANSLATION: Mick Kolassa is a very prolific musician who always surprises the audience with new and interesting works. On this occasion and after his previous album in electric format, Mick returns once again to acoustic blues in an album produced once again by Jeff Jensen where all the instruments are not amplified and in which he offers us a repertoire of eleven songs, six of them own compositions and the rest from artists such as Bo Carter, Johnny Prine, Joni Mitchell or McHugh & Fields.

Kolassa’s suggestive voice and guitar find the magnificent support of an excellent group of artists, all of them stubborn connoisseurs of the secrets of acoustic blues, such as Jeff Jensen on guitar and percussion, Brad Webb and Chris Gill on slide, Eric Hughes, Bobby Rush and Watermelon Slim on harmonica (the latter also on vocals), Doug McLeod on guitar, Rick Steff on piano, Alice Hasan on violin, Carl Caspersen on bass, Tom Leonardo on drums and John Whittemore on vibraphone .

The result is a relaxed album where acoustic blues takes over the approximately fifty minutes of elegant and well-developed music and in which Kolassa’s sometimes harsh but always suggestive and well-tuned voice reels off incredible stories including in each and every one of the songs on the album. Good ‘unplugged’ blues by a more than remarkable ‘storyteller’ named Mike Kolassa. ~ La Hora del Blues


Michael Doherty’s Music Log

Blues man Mick Kolassa has certainly kept busy, releasing three albums in the last eleven months. The latest, They Call Me Uncle Mick!, contains a combination of original material and good choices of covers. The music here is acoustic blues. As is mentioned in the album’s liner notes, “No amplified instruments were used on any track, making this album purely acoustic.” Oh yes, acoustic and so damn good! Some talented musicians join him on this album, including three harmonica greats – Eric Hughes, Watermelon Slim and Bobby Rush. Jeff Jensen is on guitar and percussion, Tom Leonardo is on drums, Carl Caspersen is on bass, Rick Steff is on piano, and Alice Hasan is on violin. There are some other guests on various tracks. ~ MORE >>

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CD REVIEWS – I’m Just Getting Started!

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!


Blues Bytes

The incredibly prolific Mick Kolassa has released 11 albums since 2014, the latest titled I’m Just Getting Started! (Endless Blues Records), and it’s as high quality a set of his “Free Range Blues” as the previous ten. For this latest effort, Kolassa gives listeners a dozen tracks, eight originals and four tasty covers previously associated with Taj Mahal and Sleepy John Estes, Chainsaw Dupont, John Hiatt, and Pacific Gas & Electric.

Kolassa is backed by a fine set of musicians that include Jef Jensen (guitar/producer), Dexter Allen (bass/guitar), Rick Steff (keys), John Blackmon (drums), Brandon Santini (harmonica), Bill Ruffino (bass), Andrew McNeill (drums), Marc Franklin (trumpet), Chris Stephenson (keys), Kirk Smothers (sax), J. Remy Williams (keys/backing vocals), and Julia Melah and Donna Jones Nickleson (backing vocals).

The title track opens the disc, and Kolassa delivers it with such verve that you figure he might have 11 more albums in him down the road. The soul blues ballad, “What Can I Do?,” features Allen on guitar, the encouraging “Bigger Dreams” implores listeners not to give up on theirs, and “Alibis and Lies,” previously done by Chainsaw Dupont has a jazzy feel, while the deliciously funky take on “Leaving Trunk” is a nice showcase for Kolassa and Santini.

“That Kind Of Man” is a smooth ballad with a ’70s R&B/soul vibe, thanks to Jensen guitar and Steff’s work on the keyboard. “Are You Ready?” was originally recorded by rock band Pacific Gas and Electric in 1970. Kolassa’s version is taken at a more leisurely, bluesy pace than the original, but retains the gospel feel of its predecessor. “Take Me Away” and “Trying Not To Let The Darkness In” are both slow burners, the former leaning toward soul and the latter toward the blues side of the spectrum.

The album wraps up with a funky blues cover of John Hiatt’s “Real Man,” along with two more originals — the swampy blues track “Hard Hearted Woman,” which warns of a female to be avoided, and the humorous “How Much Can I Pay You?,” about a lady who’s having too much fun for all the other patrons at the club.

As always on Mick Kolassa’s albums, 100% of the net proceeds from I’m Just Getting Started! go to the Blues Foundation, where it is split between the Hart Fund and Generation Blues. I encourage you to check out this excellent effort and listen to some good music while helping to support a worthy cause. ~ Graham Clarke, Blues Bytes


Midwest Record

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


Hot Wax Album Review by the Rock Doctor

More ‘free range blues’ from Mick Kolassa on this, his 11th album.  I’m Just Getting Started is more of the down home blues Mick is noted for as he slips into more soulful stuff and a certain jazz feel at times that reminds me of Gaye Delorme.  Cool stuff, this.

As with previous records, I’m Just Getting Started is a mix of lively originals and spirited covers.  The sweet spot for me is their noir jazz take on Alibies & Lies, originally done by Chainsaw Dupont.  Mick is joined on the Taj Mahal classic Leaving Truck by Brandon Santini, and they get together again on John Hiatt’s Real Man.  Songs like these sit quite comfortably with tracks like Trying Not To Let the Darkness In, a minor key slow blues that Kolassa’s fans will appreciate; I have 8 of his albums so yeah, I’m definitely one of those fans.

I’m Just Getting Started was produced once again by Jeff Jensen, who helped Mick gather together a number of seasoned musicians to help bring these dozen songs to life.  Too many involved to mention here, but I was well pleased to note that bassist Dexter Allen, a groove master par excellence, plays on all but 2 of the numbers.  You can hear and feel the miles Kolassa has traveled through this life, which gives his blues the right weight… he’s not singing these songs for any commercial consideration beyond making a living.  No, I really believe Mick sings stuff like Are You Ready and Trying Not To Let the Darkness In because he feels it deeply, which makes this album a very soulful experience.

As I’ve noted with previous Kolassa albums I’ve reviewed, 100% of the net proceeds from I’m Just Getting Started will go to The Blues Foundation.  There, it will be split between The Hart Fund and Generation Blues.  If you’re a blues believer, I suggest visiting www.blues.org to find out what you can do to help support this music.  In the meantime, put Mick Kolassa’s new disc on and let the mighty Mississippi carry you away… you’ll want to dance, think, and maybe even have a good cry or two.  That, fellow babies, is the magic of the blues. ~ John Kereiff, Rock Doctor


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


La Hora del Blues

With eleven albums published so far, singer and guitar player Mick Kolassa comes back to the front line with the energy, passion and enthusiasm of a beginner but, at the same time, with the professionalism and knowledge he treasures, thanks to the experience in the music field gathered over the years.

Produced by Jeff Jensen, Kolassa shows an undeniable authority in the whole recording, walking with professionalism along blues and other similar styles such as jazz, soul, funky, groove, gospel or rock, in thirty-five minutes of excellent music and twelve songs, eight Mick Kolassa’s own compositions and four versions “Alibis And Lies” coming from Steve Pasek, “Leavin’ Trunk” by Sleepy John Estes, “Are You Ready?” by Charlie Allen & John Hill and “Real Man” by John Hiatt.

Mick Kolassa is backed in the album by Jeff Jensen on guitar, Dexter Allen on bass and guitar, Rick Steff on keyboards and John Blackmon on drums, plus different collaborations by Bill Ruffino, Andrew McNeill, Marc Franklin, Chris Stephenson, Kirk Smothers and the backing vocals of singers J. Remy Williams, Julia Melah and Donna Jones Nickelson. As he usually does, all the album proceeds will go to support The HART Fund and Generation Blues programs, sponsored by the Blues Foundation.

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CD REVIEWS – Uncle Mick’s Christmas Album

Downbeat

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


Blues Bytes

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


Phil’s Picks

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 >>


BluesNRoots Corner

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 >>


Fotos Blues Rock & More

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. ~ MORE >>

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CD REVIEWS – Wasted Youth


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The reviews are coming in…

 

Blues Matters!

Now here we have a guy who truly puts his whole life into the blues. A former director of The Blues Foundation based in Memphis all profits from all of his album sales go towards the support of two of the Foundations projects. Mick “Mississippi Mick” Kolassa is back with just such a new release. Twelve tracks just oozing blues from every bar. Eleven originals and one cover segueing together three tunes. However, should you go trawling through his catalogue, and you will find that Wasted Youth is not actually his latest. He has also just released mid October a new Christmas album as well. If we put that off to the side what we have here is a very fine collection of tuneage reeking of Memphis and the Blues. Mick has managed to create a thoroughly modern album which, somehow, sits very comfortably alongside the sounds from former times. For example the aching love song about separation, Touching Bass, rolls along with a steady gait redolent of some smoky club from the forties. This is quickly followed up by the trio of songs combined under Darkness To Light. So you get a medley of War’s Slipping Into Darkness, The Youngbloods’ Darkness Darkness and finally Wayfaring Stranger. Set to an almost Reggae rhythm, and with unusual but exquisite violin solos, they all work really well together. Throwing Away These Blues and the title track open the album up. The former implores us to not let life get us down whilst the rougher Wasted Youth shows us that we can really only appreciate youth with the benefit of hindsight.  Edge Of A Razor rounds things off with three simple acoustic guitars with guest Albert Castiglia on slide. A very tasty album indeed! ~ Graeme Scott, Blues Matters!


BluesBlast

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… 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! MORE>>


Bluebird Reviews

In these days and age, it is very gratifying for a writer to review a Blues album that encapsulates the original values of the genre so well like Wasted Youth, the brand new album from American singer/songwriter and guitarist Mick Kolassa.

Written largely during the height of the pandemic in 2020, Wasted Youth is a heartwarming, disarmingly sincere and incredibly well structured record in all its aspects, in a year particularly difficult for the veteran American Blues artist, from a personal level… MORE >>


Reflections In Blue

Cutting to the chase, Wasted Youth is one of those recordings that offers more than simply a background for our dancing and polite conversation.  Like diamonds, which are formed under conditions of extreme heat and pressure, great blues tunes do not come easily.  It has been a rough year and a half, but Mick put these trying times to good use.  This is some of the best songwriting I’ve heard, and Kolassa is surrounded by some of the greatest performers in Memphis.  While the tunes here are very much able to be danced to, it is the furthest thing from a party album.  Like the works of the masters of old, there is a profound honesty here.  I found myself taking council and examining my own heart, mind, and soul.  This is Mick’s finest work to date…a bona fide blues album in every sense of the word.  I’d feel comfortable recommending this one to everyone, from the hardcore traditionalist to lover of the more contemporary styles.  Mick Kolassa and company knock this one out of the park. – Bill Wilson, Reflections In Blue


Downatthecrossroads

Raised in Michigan but resident in Mississippi, “Michissippi Mick” has been playing the blues a long time with a style he likes to call “Free Range Blues”.  He’s not tied down to one style, be it Delta blues, country blues, Chicago blues, or Memphis style soul blues.

His new album, Wasted Youth, sees him teamed up with Jeff Jensen, and playing with a group that includes sixteen top notch musicians, including the fine vocals of Tullie Brae. It’s a terrific set of 14 songs, eleven of them Kolassa originals, some of them inspired by his dreadful 2020, in which he lost his wife and a number of friends. All proceeds from the album are going to The Blues Foundation, where Kolassa is a former board member… MORE >>


Hot Wax Album Review

Any day a new Mick Kolassa CD shows up in my mailbox is a very good day, because I know I‘m in for a deep and tasty dive into the blues.  I picked this up on my way to work this morning, but had to wait till after supper to give a spin- well, 3 or 4 to be honest.  Wasted Youth is a spirited collection tunes that are bound… MORE >>


La Hora Del Blues

After the acclaimed success of his previous release “If You Can’t Be Good”, singer and guitar player Mick Kolassa publishes now a fourteen song new album, with eleven Kolassa’s own compositions, which have been inspired by all the bad things pandemic has brought and the misfortunes he has suffered in 2020, where he lost his wife and several friends. As he previously did, in the album Kolassa teams again with guitar player Jeff Jensen, which provides strength and energy to all songs, but he has also counted with the collaboration of different amazing musicians, all gifted with fine subtle skills, like Bill Rufino, Rick Steff, James Cunningham, Brandon Santini, Brad Webb, Kirk Smothers, Albert Castiglia or Victor Wainwright among others. As he always does, all the album sales benefits will go to the programs ‘Hart Fund’ and ‘Generation Blues’, promoted by the Blues Foundation in Memphis. Once again Mick Kolassa shows all his special powerful sensitivity and musical knowledge, as well as an undeniable good taste when he steadily walks along the most genuine and vigorous blues landscapes. GREAT. ~ La Hora Del Blues

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CD REVIEWS – If You Can’t Be Good, Be Good At It!

The reviews are coming in…


Living Blues

Kolassa’s title track scurries along at a frenetic pace, driven by Jeff Jensen’s scalding lead guitar and floating over a chorus of heavenly doo-wop style background vocals. It’s a good-time song with a nod-and-a-wink message that illustrates Kolassa’s canny ability to match a romping tune with an inspirational message. The song also contains the promise of the remainder of the album, which showcases Kolassa and his band’s meandering journey through a variety of musical styles.

Piercing and soulful lead guitar lines weave around a B3 in the slow-burning, minor chord A Good Day for the Blues, a reflection on the blues being just the right musical vehicle for a day when everything has gone wrong. We Gotta swings brightly with a New Orleans jazz vibe, riding along Marc Franklin’s blaring trumpet and Kirk Smothers’ swaggering sax, while the country blues I’ve Seen rides a shimmering harmonica wrapped around a sprightly violin. The jazz lounge romp Sweet Tea pays tribute to a long, tall glass of the southern drink, and the singer of the languorous Slow and Easy Love makes a promise to his lover of a night she’ll never forget. The album opens with the bright Memphis soul swayer I Can’t Help Myself, while the album closes with the poignant She Kept Her Head Up, Kolassa’s moving tribute to his daughter, Kassi, who’s been fighting breast cancer.

If You Can’t Be Good, Be Good at It! demonstrates that Kolassa has nothing to worry about: he’s both a good musician and songwriter and good at it, too! The songs on the album display his passion for the blues, illustrate the breadth of his musical range, and prove that any time is a good time for a Mick Kolassa album.

~ Henry L. Carrigan Jr.
Living Blues
January 2020, Issue#270


Reflections In Blue

Mick Kolassa is, without question, one of the finest songwriters in the business. He is also a fine guitarist, with a voice that suggests years of marinating his vocal cords in bourbon and fine cigars. His latest release, If You Can’t Be Good, Be Good At It, is powerful, soulful, poignant, and decidedly blues. With the exception of two well-chosen covers, he has written all of the tunes on the album…  MORE >>


Jazz Weekly

I love those blindfold tests when the listener is asked if the artist is black or white. Mick Kolassa, who plays guitar and sings, would have stumped me. He sounds like he came out of a STAX session of the 60s with a rough and tumble voice, particularly when teamed with the horns of Marc Franklin/tp and Kirk Smothers/ts on the funky “I Can’t Help Myself”, the blues jumping “We Gotta” and boogaloo-ing “Sweet Tea”. John Blackmon supplies a 60s drum… MORE >>


The Rock Doctor *****

If You Can’t Be Good was recorded in the middle of the pandemic- doing an album that sounds this together is no easy feat.  Mick and Jensen gathered some musical friends from Memphis and surrounding areas and the results I daresay are pure magic… a blues album for today that also carries a sense of blues history with it… MORE >>

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