Press & Reviews

Blue Monday Monthly – Interview

Blue Monday Monthly — Interview by Kyle Christen
Issue 231  August 2023


The title of this one made me wonder a little bit, but here’s a release that will just knock you out. Long-time Bluesman Mick Kolassa has been putting out recordings for about ten years, but his latest “Wooden Music”, which was just released a couple weeks ago, hits home with nary an electric guitar involved. It’s not the first all acoustic album he’s done, and hopefully there’s more to come. “Michississippi Mick” earned his moniker as though he now lives in Memphis, he was born in Michigan, and also lived in Mississippi for three decades. No acoustic instruments were harmed in the making of this CD! Mick has assembled a familiar crew of musicians to help out, plus a couple curve balls to keep you on the edge. Out of 11 tunes, only one is a cover, so stand up, sit down, or get in your car and enjoy it. First up is “Educated By The Blues,” about a guy who was expected to go to college, since he was told it’s the only way to get ahead in life. But nothing taught him like that sweet “devil sound,” and he’s learning new things every day!
Producer/guitarist Jeff Jensen plus Rick Steff on piano make this a fun shuffle. Guest stars here are Doug McLeod on slide, and Beale Street star Vince Johnson on the harp. Mick name drops that Wolf “taught him to howl,” but also mentions Sonny Boy, Jr. Kimbrough, Muddy, and Robert Johnson. That’s enough to grab your interest. Some real low down guitars adorn “You Gotta Pay The Price.” This is a tune about working men and women like you and me. More of Doug McLeod, and Rick, who doubles on accordion, laying it down in the background. Two songs in, and I’m hooked on this “Wooden Music ”

BMM was honored to speak with Mick by phone, and, while abbreviated due to space constrictions, here it is. As usual, I love it, you’ll love it, but what does Mick think of it?

“I’m especially proud of this one for s number of reasons. In putting it together, we wanted people to know that a totally acoustic album can still have have a full sound. You think “acoustic album,” and in between you and me, most folks think just an old white guy playing a Resonator guitar, right? I’ve done 3) other acoustic albums, and we wanted to show how full and rich this music can be. There were some really fun challenges with this one. On the song “Hurt People, I’d put a B3 on it in a minute, but have yet to find an acoustic B3. That’s why we brought in Reba Russell and Susan Marshall to do the “oohhss” and aaahhss” to cover that sound. “

Next one you’ll like is “Sugar In Your Grits,” which Mick starts off “Traditions get trampled when new folks come around, they might not know where something fits, maybe it’s progress, or maybe it’s wrong, to put sugar in your grits.” (Mick informed me that’s a common mistake made by visiting Northerners). The secret weapon on this one is Bob Corritore on the Harp, who has over two dozen of his own releases, and upwards of a hundred appearances on recordings by other blues performers. When artists ask you to play with them that many times, you, the listener can’t go wrong! More of Mick’s poetry. “Muddy never played a 20 minute solo, Wolf didn’t use a pedal board, Willie Dixon told a story with everyone of his songs, do lyrics even matter any more?” The excellent section of Carl Casperson on upright bass and drummer Tom Lonardo got the backing through this one and also every other cut.

“Hurt People” starts off as more traditional acoustic blues, a story about a gal who was sad, lonely, and had no love, as all she’d ever learned to do was hate. Rick is at his best on the 88’s, while the Memphis legends mentioned earlier, Susan Marshall and Reba Russell provide soulful, mournful backing vocals. Mick and Jeff continue to lay down the wooden guitars. The lyrics teach a lesson learned, and this song is good stuff. Slowing it down, just a little, is “Memphis Wood.” Great guitars (again), and more of Rick’s accordion. Maybe my favorite track? Why? Because I know we have some Tas Cru fans out there, and he’s worked with Mick many times before, here adding his guitar to a song about guitars made out of wood, and from where else? Memphis! Very cool tune. I asked Mick to talk about it.

“You can tell from this one that I’m really fond of the sound of an acoustic guitar. I started playing around with that term, and the Ist line is the Ist phrase from “Norwegian Wood ” I didn’t pattern this one after the Beatles, but it starts, “I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me.” During the last IBC here in Memphis, Tas showed up and was going to stay with me for a few days. I played him a rough demo, and he reached over for my guitar, and started playing this beautiful solo. I said “You are now going to be on the record! To have someone like Tas, who just loves music…a lot of musicians, it’s their job, but I’m so thankful to play with people like him. This is my love song to acoustic guitars.”

Just the basic band on “If Life Was Fair,” which includes some nice honky-tonk blues piano from Rick. This would be a great one to see live. It ’11 make you feel like you’re sitting in some side street blues dive with your friends, on a rainy night, enjoying the music and a few Old Style’s. “Over My Shoulder” is upbeat, “I can’t live in the yesterday with tomorrow just waiting for me. You can spend your time looking at the past, complaining it’s not here no more.” A real forward looking kind of guy. The acoustic guitars sound damn near electric, and more terrific input from the core band. Really nice groove that compliments the words.

On the press release, Mick mentioned he wanted to really craft the songs, and not just play them. I asked him to expand on that.

“By putting a a limit on myself, like only acoustic, you have to be more creative. Jeff and I spent hours and hours finding the right instruments, going through the songs, and deciding what keys, what sound, and what tempo I wanted on each cut. I wanted every tune to sound as big as it could be. There’s more drums on this one from Tom Lonardo. Tom was with me on my last release, but he was restrained. This time, we just let him play. Like the song “If I Told You, ” it opens with his drums, which you’re not expecting. The sheer pleasure of sharing Vince Johnson on harmonica. He’s a national treasure, and plays 5 nights a week on Beale Street. I’m lucky to have friends like this. I want to be true to the blues, and not what older white guys want it to be.”

The guitar chords leading in to “One Hit Wonder are then joined by the whole cookin’ band is really good stuff.
And the lyrics are worth the price of admission alone. I’II leave this one for you to check out on your own, and you’ll love it. I’m purely guessing, of course, that there’s a number of BMM readers (and maybe a couple writers) who are
“One Hit Wonders” in their own right. Check it out! To finish up is the country/blues infused southern “Michissippi style fun of “Gas Station Sushi.” “Girl you remind me of gas station sushi, you sure seemed like a good idea at the time, but it didn’t take me long to find out I was wrong.” Any of you remember being in elementary school during the mid 1960’s? The instrument that any of us could play instantly? Well, just for you, on this final cut, Mick whips out the Kazoo! What a great end to this excellent disc.

I asked Mick what is next for him?

“I’ll be playing in Three Rivers, Michigan on August 6th, the Sean Costello fundraiser in Peoria the night before the Blues Blast Awards (Sept. 22), and the Oxford, Miss. Blues Fest (Oct. 14th). I did a show here with Doug MacLeod and Jeff Jensen in June called “Blues Free For All.” We’d like to do those quarterly in Memphis, and add some other artists. I also put out 3) CD’s last year, which is great except when it’s “Hey Mick! Let’s talk about your new album” and I’m like “Great! Which one?” I also want to get back playing live in Europe, which I miss, and at some point, start on the next album, which will be my 15th.

For being a real-deal bluesman, Mick has quite the background, including a Ph. D in Pharmaceutical Marketing from Ole Miss University, is the former CEO of Medical Marketing Economics, and also authored a book titled “The Strategic Pricing Of Pharmaceuticals.” But that’s maybe for another time. His albums are a true labor of love, as 100% of the net proceeds from all his releases go to the Blues Foundation, split between the HART Fund and Generation Blues, both very worthy causes. The way Mick has put these songs together, along with Jeff’s production, have come together to form a huge sound. It’s full, certainly not skinny, and it’s hard to believe that there were no electric instruments used at all, because on many cuts, you’d swear there were. And a bunch of friends adding in their musicianship, so precise and skilled, you’d think they’ve been playing together for years. Make no mistake “Wooden Music’? Yes… and the Blues? Hell, yes. Highly recommended that you get this one.


CD REVIEWS – Wooden Music

Living Blues

Memphis-based guitarist “Michissippi Mick” Kolassa calls his brand of music “free range blues.” It’s his way of getting across the idea that he doesn’t confine his style to any one corner or subgenre of the form. He performs and records in a variety of styles, from electric blues rock to jump blues/swing to acoustic
Delta/Piedmont blues. The prolific Kolassa has explored myriad musical pathways on a string of more than a dozen albums, plus six digital-only releases, all released in the last decade.

Kolassa’s latest offering is Wooden Music. By design it’s a completely acoustic set of songs, with a decidedly spare arrangement aesthetic. Kolassa sings and plays his guitar, adding percussion and (on one cut) kazoo. He’s joined by a skilled and sympathetic core group of musicians—lead guitarist and session producer Jeff Jensen, upright bassist Carl Caspersen, Rick Steff on piano and accordion, and Tom Lonardo on drums. A variety of friends and guest artists add their distinctive talents on select tracks; among the notable names are Tas Cru (guitar on Memphis Wood) and Bob Corritore (harmonica on Sugar in Your Grits).

Educated by the Blues is a story song set against a loping, jaunty backing. Kolassa name-checks some of the artists whose work has inspired him. Eric Hughes, one of three harmonica players on the album, turns in a
bright, if too-brief, solo. Guest player Doug MacLeod’s slide guitar shines mid-song. Kolassa adopts a huskier vocal timbre for You Gotta Pay the Price; that tone fits the tune’s theme and highlights Kolassa’s vocal range. Steff’s subtle accordion work adds a contemplative feel to the arrangement.

Kolassa packs a lot of lyrics into Sugar in Your Grits; the song’s title is a metaphor for adding unnecessary ingredients to music. “You might think that you like the blues,” Kolassa sings. “But tell me: is that what you’re playing?” Corritore’s harp work is a highlight.

The sole cover tune on Wooden Music is a reading of Guy Clark’s Baby Took a Limo to Memphis. Libby Rae Watson helps out on vocals as Kolassa bends Clark’s song into a shuffling, country blues shape. Thanks in large part to Lonardo’s approach to drumming on the track, If I Told You presents a kind of acoustic rock feel; in that regard it’s quite successful. The emotion-laden Hurt People takes things in a more serious direction.

Wooden Music’s title track features sweet accordion backing and lovely acoustic picking from Cru, all in support of Kolassa’s narrative, storytelling lyric. Steff’s agile piano forms the musical core of the bouncy If Life Was Fair. Country blues come to the fore on Over My Shoulder. The autobiographical One Hit Wonder finds Kolassa comparing present-day life with his rowdier early days; though the tune is infused with nostalgia, he makes it clear that he’s happy with life in its current form.

And that wry, up-tempo character follows through for the album’s closer, Gas Station Sushi. A clip-clop percussion foundation moves the song along, and while the kazoo chorus is a bit silly, in this context it works. Overall, Wooden Music blows along at quick pace; working within a specific category of the blues, Kolassa demonstrates the variety that can be found within it. ~ Bill Kopp, Living Blues (Issue #286 • Vol 54, #5)

Jazz Weekly

If for no other reason, you gotta get this latest album by back porch blueser Mick Kolassa simply to memorize the lyrics to “Gas Station Sushi”, with classic kiss off lyrics such as the word images of “You remind me of gas station sushi; you sure seemed like a good idea”. The rest of the album is filled with avuncular yarns, mostly originals, as Kolassa sings and plays guitar, percussion and kazoo with a core team of Jeff Jensen/g-slg-perc, Carl Casperson/b, Tom Lonardo/dr Rick Steff/p-acc and a variety of guests. Eric Hughs blows a mean harmonica on the easy shuffling “ Educated By The Blues” while Staff’s accordion gives a bohemian atmosphere to “Memphis Wood” and his saloon takes you to the local saloon on ”If Life Was Fair”. There’s a relaxed folk feel to the strummed “One Hit Wonder” and “Hurt People” while Kolassa picks and grins out “Sugar In Your Grits”. Well spun musical yarns. ~ George W. Harris, Jazz Weekly

ABS Magazine

Mick Kolassa is an American singer, guitarist, composer and producer. He was born in 1952 in Michigan, but lived for more than thirty years in Mississippi, hence his nickame “Mississipi Mick”. Today, it is located in Memphis. It is not very well known in Europe, despite its implications in the field of blues. He is a member of the board of directors of the Blues Foundation. In 2014, he released his first album when he was over 60 years old and in 2018 he created his own label, Endless Blues. He now released “Wooden Music”, his fourteenth album. While in his previous productions he toured all the blues styles, from Delta to Chicago, solo or electrically formed, the eleven pieces of this new disc are acoustic. For Kolassa, the aim of this album is to demonstrate that musicians using only acoustic instruments can compete with any power group. The result is no appeal, it is difficult to realize that all the pieces are acoustic. So here’s an excellent and original blues record that is the work of an extraordinary American; indeed, Kolassa is also involved in public life by being a virulent anti-Trump and organizing concerts in favor of Ukrainians. ~ Robert Moutet, ABS Magazine

The Rock Doctor ****

Another beautiful blues excursion here from Mick Kolassa. Wooden Music is the kind of record you’d expect, given the title, yet Kolassa and his cohorts have crafted an album as big an full as an electric blues disc.  Being acoustic doesn’t have to mean ‘sparse’- not that there’s anything wrong with that! Taking this path also dictated a sort of cool creativity, resulting in a warm and thoroughly engaging listen.

Instead of slowing down at this point Mick Kolassa has become more prolific, releasing 4 albums last year alone including a Christmas record. Wooden Music refers to the sound, and there’s a relaxed swing to these numbers overall that’s real inviting.  The disc is 11 songs, 10 originals plus a cover of Guy Clark’s Baby Took A Limo To Memphis.  If you’re into Mick’s stuff (I have 11 of his cd’s) you’ll notice some of the musicians involved here have been involved in several of his previous discs.  Guests you might recognize include Tas Cru on guitar (Memphis Wood), Bob Corritore on harp (Sugar in Your Grits) and Doug MacLeod on guitar and slide guitar (Educated By the Blues, You Gotta Pay The Price).  Harmonic player Eric Hughes is the only musician involved who’s played on every one of Mick’s records- except Mick, of course!  These cats obviously know each other well as there’s the sort of comfort in playing music with each other that only comes from experience.

For Wooden Music Kolassa is joined again by Jeff Jensen as principal guitarist and producer.  The rhythm section is Carl Casperson and Tom Lonardo who also powered last year’s They Call Me Uncle Mick.   In creating this album Mick was intent on crafting the songs not just playing them, and that effort is readily apparent as you listen.  With the superb musicianship and production here the word I would use to sum up Wooden Music is ‘jaunty’.  Mick Kolassa makes good records, but this is the best thing he’s done in quite some time. ~ By John Kereiff Features – Music Reviews & Get Off My Lawn!

Blues Bytes

The ever-prolific Mick Kolassa returns with Wooden Music (Endless Blues Records), his 14th album in ten years (plus six digital-only releases). The most impressive thing about Kolassa’s growing catalog is that it remains remarkably consistent and original in content, both lyrically and musically. Part of this has to be due to his supporting musicians, many of whom have played on nearly all of his recordings — guitarist Jeff Jensen, keyboardist Rick Steff, and harmonica ace Eric Hughes, along with upright bassist Carl Casperson and drummer Tom Lonardo.

The rest of the contributors on this disc are a most impressive crew as well — harmonica players Bob Corritore and Vince Johnson, guitarists Doug MacLeod and Tas Cru, and vocalist Libby Rae Watson, with background vocalists Reba Russell and Susan Marshall. The premise behind Wooden Music was to craft songs from scratch in an acoustic setting to allow for more creativity. The result of their efforts is a big, full sound that rivals the usual electric blues album, and Kolassa has brought ten excellent songs to the proceedings (plus one cover).

“Educated By The Blues” opens the album, as Kolassa sings and plays kazoo and basically tells his story of how he came to play the blues and the many artists who influenced him along the way, wtih Hughes on harmonica and MacLeod on slide guitar. MacLeod also guests on the “life lesson” tune “You Gotta Pay The Price,” and Corritore plays harp on “Sugar In Your Grits,” a light-hearted jab at those who venture too far from the traditions of the blues (and grits).

Guy Clark’s “Baby Took A Limo To Memphis” teams Kolassa with Ms. Watson on vocals and she adds plenty of sass and attitude to the tune, and “If I Told You” is blues with a country feel and features harmonica from Johnson.

The wistful “Hurt People” leans toward country/soul, compliments of Steff’s piano and the background vocals of Russell and Marshall. Steff plays accordion and Cru guests on guitar for “Memphis Wood,” an easy-going song about turning to music to get through the hard times. The rollicking “If Life Was Fair” is a song that everyone can relate to, whether they’re blues fans or not.

On “Over My Shoulder” Kolassa encourages us to focus on what’s ahead instead of what’s already happened, but the hilarious “One Hit Wonder” looks at the past and how things do change and how we slow down over time.The country-flavored closer, “Gas Station Sushi,” also hilarious, looks at a hook-up that shouldn’t have been.

Wooden Music is another winner for Mick Kolassa, with lots of great, entertaining songs and excellent musicianship. As with all of Kolassa’s releases, 100% of the net proceeds go to the Blues Foundation, split between the HART Fund and Generation Blues. Even more reason to check out this fine album, and all of his others. ~ Graham Clarke, Blues Bytes

The Rocking Magpie

Blues Rocker Goes Acoustic With All of His Heart

I know Mick Kolassa is a Blues Rocker of the finest hue; so was intrigued when I saw the CD cover and subsequently glimpsed at the Press Release …. Kolassa Goes Acoustic!

I doubt this will have his loyal fans screaming “Judas!” any time soon; as it’s a logical direction for any Bluesman to take in one form or another.

As he’d hoped during the concept for this album, Kolassa was right in thinking a bunch of great musicians playing acoustic instruments can still kick up a ruckus to rival any electric band … and that happens right from the off, with the sizzling Educated By The Blues, which is first and foremost a cool song; but the piano, slide guitar, harmonica, upright bass and more combine to create a fabulous song to get the house party started.

I think you’d have to own incredibly sensitive ears to realise that these songs are 100% acoustic; such is the quality of the playing and production here.

While taking a traditional format to create these songs; these songs manage to straddle the Classic and Contemporary styles of The Blues with ease; with and Over My Shoulder being prime examples of songs that sound decades old, but were written and recorded for this project.

There’s only one cover song here; and it’s never been a Blues song in my memory; but Kolassa takes Guy Clark’s words and melody on Baby Took a Limo To Memphis, added the vocals of Libby Rae Watson, and makes them sound like something Big Bill Broonzy might have sung, back in the day.

As a ‘non-musician’ I never fail to be impressed when songwriters find new ways to write and sing about L.O.V.E in all it’s ways; and here Mick Kolassa made me sit back in wonderment the first couple of times I heard If Life Was Fair and If I Told You because they use the normal Blues formula and take it into a whole new rarefied direction.

One Hit Wonder sounds like a really personal song to Mick; but his words will resonate with many people who hear it, and isn’t about what the title suggests it might be.

While I love this album from start to finish, there are a couple of tracks that have not just ‘touched my heart’ but really, really impressed me.

Sugar in Your Grits is as romantic a piece of Bluesy Americana as you can imagine, and features some syrupy sweet harmonica too.

But, Memphis Wood is a beautiful and melancholic tale, that sounds as if The Band are in residence behind him …. and Kolassa’s voice never sounder finer …. making this my Favourite Song.

There are songs here that will affect you in a million different ways; and these days there’s very little room on radio for songs like these these days, so it’s a case of buying the album to hear it … and if you do I guarantee you will cherish it forever.

Blues in the South

Mick Kolassa pops up fairly frequently in these pages with a string of consistently fine albums from his base in Memphis. Here’s another, made, as Mick puts it on the sleeve, “with love, soul and wooden instruments”. It does support Mick’s contention that an acoustic album can sound as big and full as an electric one.

Mick’s voice is easily identifiable once heard, and he has long been a passionate advocate for the blues – listen to the lyrics of ‘Sugar In Your Grits’ for his take on the current blues scene, and ‘Educated By The Blues’ for some of his own influences and what he has taken from them. He strays into Americana at times too, as on ‘Memphis Wood’ or ‘One Hit Wonder’, both with fine accordion by pianist Rick Steff. ‘Gas Station Sushi’ is a nicely whimsical-sounding closer, with a ragtime feel and good-humoured if pointed lyrics.

Long-time associate Jeff Jensen is also present on guitar, as usual, but Mick has also drafted in some guests who share a similar stance to his own – people like harmonica ace Bob Corritore, guitarist Doug McLeod, singer songwriter Tas Cru and singer Libby Rae Watson. Taken altogether, it makes for a rather tasty album all round. ~ Norman Darwen


TRANSLATION: A key figure on the blues scene in Memphis and more broadly in the South of the United States, Mick Kolassa is a generous and committed artist who puts his elegant guitar playing and his rocky voice at the service of many works, not the least of which are those of the Blues Foundation to which he donates all the profits from his albums to finance the health expenses of artists and the training efforts of young bluesmen in the making. Prolific musician delivering several albums each year, Mick Kolassa strives this time to offer us an exclusively acoustic work, determined to remember that the term is not a synonym of soft and boring and that it is possible to make a blues groove in a very beautiful way without using and abusing the assets of the fairy electricity. Accompanied by his faithful accomplice Jeff Jensen on guitars and production and his shocking rhythm section with Carl Capserson on double bass and Tom Lonardo on drums, joined by Eric Hughes, Bob Corritore and Vince Johnson on harmonicas, Rick Steff on piano and accordion, Doug MacLeod and Tas Cru on guitars, Libby Rae Watson on vocals or Reba Russell and Susan Marshall on backing vocals, the bluesman splits this time from ten compositions that flit from folk blues to Cajun and zydeco but also an interesting rereading of “Baby Took A Limo To Memphis”, a title by Guy Clark recorded for the first time in 1995. There are some beautiful boogies and other shuffles but what seduces above all in “Wooden Music”, it is this ability that Mick Kolassa has to offer colorings that take us to music full of originality where we occasionally find a touch of jazz or a touch of Americana. From the excellent “Educated By The Blues” to the no less deductive “Gas Station Sushi”, these are pieces full of mischief, good words and elegant rhymes but also with a touch of melancholy that Mick Kolassa and others deliver to us, titles like “Sugar In Your Grits”, “If I Told You”, “Memphis Wood” or “Over My Shoulder” which manage, as always, to make everyone agree! From the great Mick Kolassa, as always… MORE >>

Michael Doherty’s Music Log

Mick Kolassa released three great albums in the second half of 2022. And here we are in June of 2023, and only now getting his first disc of the year. What happened? What slowed him down? Well, nothing happened, nothing slowed him down. In January, he released TrouTunes And Other Fishing Madness, an album of songs about fishing, but it was released only digitally. And since then, he has put out three compilations of his work – Slow Blues Essentials, Americana Essentials, and Endless Blues Essentials – all of which were also released only digitally. So Wooden Music is actually his second album of new material in 2023, and fifth overall release this year. And there is another compilation coming out soon, I hear. So there. This guy is a creative force, with seemingly endless energy and song ideas. Wooden Music features mostly original compositions, with just one cover. Joining Mick Kolassa on these tracks are Jeff Jensen on guitar, slide guitar and percussion; Carl Casperson on upright bass; Tom Lonardo on drums; and Rick Steff on piano and accordion. There are also several guests on various tracks. MORE >>



CD Reviews – For the Feral Heart

Living Blues Review by Matt R. Lohr

The liner notes of For the Feral Heart, Mick Kolassa’s 13th solo album, promise the listener “NOTHING BUT LOVE SONGS.” But given the Memphis-based vocalist/guitarist’s status as a relatively recent widower, it is no surprise that this music packs its deepest impact when exploring passions deferred and romance in defeat.

Kolassa’s vocals, confiding and cautionary, coast along TJ Bonta’s throbbing organ and Carl Casperson’s brooding bass on Elegant Angel, and the ’70s-flavored Love Ain’t Supposed to Make You Cry features a spiky Mario Monterosso guitar solo that seems to mock Kolassa’s pain and punishment. Andrew McNeill’s snappy snare drum and Bill Ruffino’s insistent walking bass give Easy to Love a tone interestingly muted, braced for attack. This sardonic sensibility extends into Kolassa’s take on Dave Mason’s Feeling Alright, his brawling guitar and Tullie Brae’s gently threatening backing vocals injecting serious grit into a tune most familiar from its far sprightlier Joe Cocker rendition.

Sweet begins to overtake the bitter as the album eases into its more stylistically diverse back half. A breeze of New Orleans suffuses I Keep Looking, with a spring in the step of Rick Steff’s piano and a jaunty Dr. John looseness to Kolassa’s phrasing. A clever, well-handled romance-tailored-to-fit metaphor and plush acoustic guitar tones make Love in My Size a
genuine heart warmer. There’s even a surprising splash of Caribbean atmosphere, with Hold On threading McNeill’s steel drums through Kolassa’s gentle Jamaican inflections, and Steff’s organ conjuring reggae rhythms on the sun-kissed Forever Sometimes.

The nostalgic violin of Alice Hasen brings a country-folk feel to I Left My Heart in Birmingham; here, and throughout the recording, guitarist and longtime Kolassa collaborator Jeff Jensen’s pristine production enhances Kolassa’s every lovely vocal crack and crinkle. Hasen also lends her skills to the straightforward balladry of Run Away with Me, adding to the wistful comfort imparted by Kolassa’s effortlessly sincere lyrics and delivery.

For the Feral Heart is nicely bookended by a pair of radically contrasting cuts. The bustling wickedness of pure-blues curtainraiser Running to You leads listeners down a twisting, colorful musical road to a closing cover of legendary chestnut As Time Goes By, given a solid, fresh-feeling pace by drummer Tom Leonardo. At the end of the day, Kolassa’s album feels a lot like love itself: seldom predictable, alternately inviting affection and threatening tears . . . but when it’s at its best, ultimately well worth the time. ~ Living Blues, Matt R. Lohr, March 2023

Keys & Chords Review by Philip Verhaege

TRANSLATION: Mick Kolassa is a busy bee. The long player ‘For The Feral Heart’ is already the successor to ‘They Call Me Uncle Mick!, which was released in the summer of 2022. It is his third album that will be released this year and every album has been given a theme. Now these are apparent love songs, but fortunately there is more than just love songs musically. Mick opens with the blues rocker ‘Running To You’, to continue his way with the jazzy ‘Elegant Angel’. The track ‘Feeling Alright’ with Dave Mason’s credits is a wonderful guitar duel between Mick and Jeff Jensen. Guitarist Mario Monterosso comes into the spotlight in ‘Love Ain’t Supposed To Make You Cry’, it’s almost a trademark song for Kolassa. The jazzy and blues song ‘Easy To Love’ is alternated by the acoustic ‘I Keep Looking’. The ballad ‘I Left My Heart In Birmingham’ is about a ‘long-distance’ affair ‘Love In My Size’ and that contrasts with the reggae tinged ‘Forever Sometimes’ and ‘Hold On’, with its distinctive syncopated calypso groove. Alice Hasen’s violin arrangements magically color the roots related ‘Run Away With Me’. Herman Hupfeld’s old standard ‘As Time Goes By’ is the ideal bouncer.

Michigan native Mick Kolassa has lived in Clarksdale, Mississippi for over twenty-five years. He is therefore no stranger to the local blues scene in and around Memphis and was a former member of the Board of Directors of The Blues Foundation. After years of songwriting, Mick Kolassa decided to record his debut album and embraced his friend Jeff Jensen as producer. In 2014 this resulted in the success story ‘Michissippi Mick’. All net proceeds were donated to The Blues Foundation. So Kolassa has its heart in the right place. ~ Keys and Chords

Blues Bytes

Mick Kolassa is a most prolific musician and manages to make all of his albums compelling listening, venturing into different genres at times, but remaining firmly rooted in the blues. His latest release, For The Feral Heart (Endless Blues Records), is his third album from 2022 and consists of nothing but love songs, ten originals from Kolassa and two interesting covers.

Kolassa is backed by the usual cast of characters, including guitarist/producer Jeff Jensen, keyboardist Rick Steff, bassist Bill Ruffino, drummer Tom Leonardo, among others.

The opener, “Running To You,” is a lively blues rocker, followed by “Elegant Angel,” a jazzy blues and one of two tracks featuring Memphis guitarist Mario Monterosso. The album’s first cover is Dave Mason’s “Feeling Alright,” and Kolassa gives this track a somewhat slower pace than usual, bringing out the often-overlooked lyrics (addressing divorce).

“Love Ain’t Supposed To Make You Cry” is a slow burning blues featuring Monterosso on guitar once again, and “Easy To Love” is a smoky urban blues. “I Keep Looking” is a gentle, mostly acoustic tune.

“I Left My Heart In Birmingham” is a rootsy ballad about the complications involved with a long-distance love affair, featuring Alice Hasen on violin, “Love In My Size,” a song about an unlikely love affair, continuing in the same musical vein.

“Forever Sometimes” and “Hold On” touch on reggae and calypso respectively, and “Run Away With Me” is a bittersweet song about our wishes that sometimes go unfulfilled. Hasen’s violin is a wonderful complement to the poignant lyrics.

Kolassa wraps up the album with his take on one of the greatest love songs ever, “As Time Goes By,” from Casablanca.

As with all of Mick Kolassa’s albums, all net proceeds from For The Feral Heart will go the Blues Foundation, split between the HART Fund and Generation Blues. This is a fine album of warmth and compassion that goes down smoothly.The latest in a set of great albums from Mr. Kolassa. ~ Graham Clarke, Blues Bytes

Michael Doherty’s Music Log

Mick Kolassa’s pace is certainly not slowing. In August, he released an excellent album titled They Call Me Uncle Mick! and followed that just a few months later with For The Feral Heart. And this latest release contains mostly original material. As the title and the album’s cover suggest, the tracks on this album deal with love. And is there anything more important? I think the pandemic has made most people take a new look at their priorities, and, big surprise, Love has once again come out on top. Mick Kolassa, in addition to the vocals, plays acoustic guitar and electric guitar on this album. Joining him on this release are Jeff Jensen on guitar, Bill Ruffino on bass, Rick Steff on keyboards, Tom Leonardo on drums, and Andrew McNeil on drums, along with some guests on certain tracks. By the way, all net proceeds from sales of this album go to The Blues Foundation, and specifically to the HART (Handy Artists Relief Trust) Fund and Generation Blues. MORE->


La Hora del Blues Interview

Free Range Blues
by Monte Adkison aka the “Blues Stalker”

There are musicians that play the blues and there are bluesmen. Mick Kolassa, aka “Michissippi Mick” is indeed in the latter category and is the entire package. A genuine bluesman feels, as well as exhibits, a compassion, love and dedication to the musical genre -not to just play it to fulfill an ego trip on stage or to collect revenue but instead seeks to educate, embellish, devour, and immerse oneself in the love of the music and to share that joy with others. Born in Michigan, Mick Kolassa lived in Mississippi for three decades before recently locating to Memphis. For the past 50 years his history includes playing acoustic and electric guitar, being a prolific songwriter and storyteller, vocalist, blues scholar, blues advocate (former Board of Directors of the Blues Foundation), producer and head of Endless Blues Records, and overall hardcore blues fan. His debut CD in 2014, entitled “Michissippi Mick” was followed by an impressive discography of ten releases including a Christmas album in 2021 (“Uncle Mick’s Christmas Album”) that charted well and included a stellar group of 100% Memphis musicians. His 11th and newest release “I’m Just Getting Started” includes some of my favorite musicians- Jeff Jensen, Dexter Allen, Reba Russell, Bill Ruffino, and Brandon Santini, so this fan felt like she had hit Lotto when listening to it the first time. If this is Mick’s idea of him “just getting started”, then I need to stock up on flame retardant as he indicated that he has several more albums in the works… READ THE INTERVIEW HERE


CD Reviews – They Call Me Uncle Mick!

Blues Blast

One of the busiest artists on the blues scene today, Memphis-based Mick Kolassa poured on the heat with the electrified I’m Just Getting Started last summer but returns to his acoustic roots in style with this follow-up, mixing six clever originals with five covers culled from other fields.

A Michigan native who’s released about a dozen CDs since walking away from his day job a decade ago, Kolassa’s definitely deserving of the Uncle Mick reference he uses in the title. Despite the seeming frown displayed on the cover, there’s plenty to smile about thanks to his warm voice, friendly delivery and skill as picker on the six-string.

Three of the biggest names in the industry – Bobby Rush, Doug MacLeod and Watermelon Slim – all make guest appearances here in a set captured by Pete Matthews and Toby Vest at High Low Recording in Memphis. Gospel and blues giant Dexter Allen provided extra help in the studio, and – as usual – Mick called on blues-rock powerhouse Jeff Jensen to serve as his co-producer.

Delivering what he terms “free-range blues,” Kolassa’s backed throughout by Jensen on guitar and percussion, Rick Steff on piano, Tom Leonardo on drums and Carl Caspersen on bass. Rush, Slim and Eric Hughes all contribute harmonica, Chris Gill and Brad Webb sit in on six-string and Alice Hasan (violin) and John Whittemore (vibraphone) lend a hand, too.

All of Mick’s originals are clever, down-to-earth and frequently humorous, and they dovetail perfectly with a cross-section of tunes that span the 20th century, beginning with a rendition of Bo Carter’s “My Pencil Won’t Write No More.” There’s a twinkle in his eye and a smile in his voice throughout the hokum classic. His work on the strings is sprightly, and Hughes’ mid-tune solo shines. Eric yields to Bobby on the reeds for the previously released original, “Wasted Youth,” which follows. An unhurried shuffle, it continues the theme of the opener as it states: “Why they gotta waste youth on the young?/They don’t know how good they got it, man, ‘til it’s already gone.”

John Prine’s country-folk pleaser, “Daddy’s Little Pumpkin,” takes on another dimension thanks to a reinterpretation as a percussive blues before MacLeod lays down tasty licks on “Used to Be,” a complaint about the current state of the post office, radio, reimagined restaurant menus and more. Up next, a cover of Hank Williams’ chart-topper, “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” is head-and-shoulders the most interesting song yet, stripping away the classic country feel and replacing it with a bluesy, gypsy feel enhanced by Hasan’s exceptional work on fiddle.

MacLeod’s back on board for “My Woman She’s So Mean,” which describes a lady who’s highly troubling and evil, too. It precedes an uptempo take on Joni Mitchell’s paeon to “Woodstock” on which Kolassa shares the mic with Watermelon Slim who also adds a taste of Louisiana saxophone and “Why?” – and original complaint about a woman who bad-mouths others and seems able to love herself and no one else.

Things brighten instantly for a take of “(On the) Sunny Side of the Street,” the Broadway hit penned by Dorothy Fields and Jimmy McHugh in 1930. Two more originals — “Bless His Heart,” an uptempo tribute to a late friend Bubba, which features Steff, and “The Cheese Song,” a send-up honoring…you guessed it…cheese – bring the action to a close.

One of the most giving musicians in the blues world, Mick’s a former member of the board of the Blues Foundation and – as he’s done frequently in the past – he’s donating all of the net proceeds to two of its charities: the HART Fund, which provides support for musicians dealing with financial and/or health problems, and Generation Blues, a program that supports youngsters who’ll continue the music for future generations. Do yourself a favor by picking up this one. You’ll be doing a good deed, too! ~ Marty Gunther, Blues Blast

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!) ~

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 >>