Press & Reviews

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 >>

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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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CD REVIEWS – Blind Lemon Sessions

The reviews are coming in for Blind Lemon Sessions — Mick Kolassa’s January 2020 Album


Reflections In Blue

The roles of the songster, singer/songwriter, storyteller, bard, minstrel, bluesman, griot, etc. is one of the most important positions in the business of making music.  One major purpose behind having a band performing was to allow patrons to cut loose, have a few drinks and to lay down all the burdens of a week on the job.  That was true in the 1920s, when recorded music was in its infancy and it is true today.  The Blind Lemon Sessions fits that bill in every sense possible way.  It is easy on the ear, entertaining, easy to dance to (if that’s your thing), easy to get lost in, gives lots of food for thought, and is just plain fun.  Even in these trying times, this album makes it possible to lay all the BS aside and simply relax.  No musician could ask for anything more.  Mick Kolassa shows what he is truly made of…and I am impressed.  This album hits all the right buttons, then turns around to hit them a second time.  There will always be those who will say “It’s not Blues”, but that’s just fine…they said the same thing about Muddy Waters and countless others as well.  This recording is loaded with timeless classics, original tunes that hone right in on life in the here and now and a cover of the Beatles’ “Help” that makes more sense than the original.  The cherry on top is that all net proceeds from album sales go to charity.  Kick, who plays 6 & 12 string guitars, baritone guitar, baritone ukulele, banjolele & percussion on the album as well as doing vocals, is joined by David Dunavent (guitar, slide guitar, banjo & percussion), Seth Hill & Bill Ruffino (bass), Eric Hughes (harmonica) and Alice Hasen (violin).  This one might not feature screaming guitars and high-tech pyrotechnics, but the content is solid, the performance is superb, and it is done in a time-honored tradition.  Mick Kolassa is a songster of the highest order.  Even the hardcore headbanger deserves a moment now and then to regroup.  This one’s a no-brainer.  Give it a listen.  You won’t regret it.

Bill Wilson, Reflections In Blue


 

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CD REVIEWS – 149 Delta Ave

The reviews are coming in for 149 Delta Ave — Mick Kolassa and the Taylor Made Blues Band’s September 2018 CD release…


Reflections In Blue

Mick Kolassa surpassed my expectations, for which I owe him and the band an apology.  149 Delta Avenue is one of the finest pieces of blues and deep Southern soul I have heard in a while I have heard in a while.  Primarily original tunes, with a few great covers thrown in for good measure, 149 Delta Avenue is a near-religious experience…  MORE->>


Don and Sheryls Blues Blog

Mick Kolassa has become one of our favorite players in contemporary blues.  On his last two albums, he recorded other folks’ material, and it is great to see him back in his element dropping some cool originals on his latest set,  “149 Delta.”… MORE->>

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