- For the Feral Heart – CD
- They Call Me Uncle Mick – CD
- I’m Just Getting Started – CD
- If You Can’t Be Good, Be Good At It – CD
- Uncle Mick’s Christmas Album
- Wasted Youth
- Blind Lemon Sessions – CD
- 149 Delta Avenue – CD
- Double Standards – CD
- You Can’t Do That – CD
- Taylor Made Blues – CD
- Ghosts of the Riverside Hotel – CD
- Michissippi Mick – CD
Browse: Home / Press & Reviews
Press & Reviews
CD Reviews – For the Feral Heart
By admin on January 12, 2023
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
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->MORE >>
Posted in News, Press & Reviews
La Hora del Blues Interview
By admin on September 20, 2022
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 HEREMORE >>
Posted in News, Press & Reviews
CD Reviews – They Call Me Uncle Mick!
By admin on September 14, 2022
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
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 >>MORE >>
Posted in News, Press & Reviews
CD REVIEWS – I’m Just Getting Started!
By admin on July 15, 2022
TRANSLATION: Time passes but Mick Kolassa’s recording hyperactivity doesn’t seem to mark time, quite the contrary! 2022, now surrendered to its waning phase, saw the release of three albums in the name of this indomitable knight of the Blues Foundation. Always faithful over the centuries to the dictates of that formula coined by himself and called “free range blues”, with which he wants to imply a frankly hybrid and bastardized approach to the genre as well as stimulating in his attempt to keep the ears alert and the mind of the listeners, even with “I’m Just Getting Started” follows these same guidelines with results that sound well focused. To understand the concept of the so-called “free range blues”, it is enough to listen to the homonymous opening piece which well exemplifies its main sound coordinates. Coordinates that, in the words of Bobby Rush, “…cross over but never cross out!”. Because in the artistic vein of Kolassa, as well as witty, shrewd author also true singer, waves of blues flow, of course, but also of soul, funk and anything else that has arisen from the American popular sound universe also, at times, soiled by slight jazz guitar smudges. Pulp fruit germinated again from the collaboration of Kolassa with producer and guitarist Jeff Jensen, to form the rich support band for the recordings the two drew from the bottom well of the best Memphisian session players including keyboardist Rick Steff and the new Memphis Horns (Mark Franklin and Kirk Smothers) as well as harmonica player Brandon Santini. In a program that mainly includes unreleased songs, there are some valuable covers such as “Real Man” by John Hiatt and the famous “Leaving Trunk”. Coming from the pen of Sleepy John Estes but always associated with Taj Mahal, the latter benefits from a pleasant and surprising funk approach. Supported by a delicately burnished timbre, Kolassa, in telling his stories in music, proves once again that he is one of the best lyricists of the genre. ~ John Rubino, IL BLUES
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!
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
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.MORE >>
Posted in News, Press & Reviews
CD REVIEWS – Uncle Mick’s Christmas Album
By admin on November 11, 2021
Unheralded bluesman Mick Kolassa, who lived for three decades in Mississippi before relocating to Memphis, makes good albums on a regular basis. His first Xmas one is better than good; it has the stuff to become a minor classic. Inventive makeovers of the usual Xmas picks and some strong original songs show the value of Kolassa’s slow-and-easy approach to singing lyrics. His weathered, imprecise voice aches with true-blue experience, even when he keeps a strong upper lip. The performance with its sharpest edge of emotion is his bittersweet tune “The Best Christmas Ever.”
Jazz & Blues
Mick Kolassa has been rather prolific in producing blues recordings. His latest is a recording of Holiday favorites with a few originals. Once again, he has collaborated with guitarist Jeff Jensen for this recording. Mick brings his vocals and guitar along with that of Jensen. Others on this session are Bill Ruffino on bass, Rick Staff on keyboards, and James Cunningham on drums. Selected tracks include Eric Hughes on harmonica and Marc Franklin on trumpet, while Reba Russell and Susan Marshall add backing vocals.
Kolassa is a pleasant vocalist enough, but in the context of the songs here, he invests his grainy vocals with considerable charm, as implied by the album title referring to Uncle Mick. The performances are handsomely rendered, with Jensen contributing some first-rate guitar, with others adding memorable solos. One doesn’t expect to hear a bluesy cover of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You.” Then, Kolassa delights before a Caribbean-tinged rendition of “Frosty the Snowman,” whose highlights include Franklin’s trumpet solo and Hughes’ harmonica embellishments. With a lazy-sounding backing, Kotassa sings about his love being there, making it “The Best Christmas Ever.”
Kotassa’s laid-back vocal provides just the right mood for a cover of “Merry Christmas Baby.” Jensen is especially outstanding here. “Jingle Bells” sounds like a new song with Jensen’s trebly guitar and a lazy funk groove followed by the light musical setting for “Winter Wonderland.” Franklin’s trumpet adds atmosphere to the genial delivery of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” At the same time, Kotassa sings more forcefully on “Christmas Morning Blues,” where his love has gone, taken the presents he bought for her, but she bought him none. It is a vibrant Chicago blues shuffle with Hughes adding a harp solo.
The closing track is “Beale Street Christmas Jam,” with all the band members fitting a classic Christmas song into this instrumental shuffle. It is a spirited close to a toe-tapping collection of bluesy Christmas songs sure to warm the Holiday spirits Ron Weinstock – Issue 399
When Mick Kolassa recorded Uncle Mick’s Christmas Album (Endless Blues Records) in Memphis, the temperature hovered around 95˚. If you live in the south and you plan to release a Christmas album, you are going to be recording it in less than frigid conditions. That’s perfectly fine in this case, because this may be one of the coolest Christmas albums you’ve heard in a while. Kolassa and company (Jeff Jensen – guitar, Bill Ruffino – bass, Rick Steff – keys, James Cunningham – drums, Eric Hughes – harmonica, Mark Franklin – trumpet, and Reba Russell and Susan Marshall – backing vocals) give this album a greasy, soulful yuletide feel. There are a lot of familiar tunes present, but unlike you’ve ever heard them before.
Opening with Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” Kolassa effectively delivers it as a soulful, slow blues tune. Next is a fantastic take on “Frosty the Snowman” that marries Memphis to New Orleans in a way that will have toes tapping and heads bobbing. Kolassa contributes a few original songs among the nine tracks, the first of which is the deliciously funky, slightly spicy “The Best Christmas Ever,” which is followed by a wonderful read of the blues classic “Merry Christmas Baby,” which features some superb guitar work.
Three traditional Christmas tunes follow: ”Jingle Bells,” “Winter Wonderland,” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” While none of these are usually considered to be “blues” tunes, Kolassa puts a very bluesy spin on all three songs. “Jingle Bells” has a old school, almost dangerous rock ‘n’ roll feel, “Winter Wonderland” strikes a loose-limbed, carefree groove, and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is a nice, warm R&B track that features Jensen on guitar, Franklin on trumpet, and Steff on a variety of instruments.
The last two tracks are originals. First is Kolassa’s rip-roaring blues rocker “Christmas Morning Blues,” where he wakes up to a house missing his lover, his car, and his Christmas presents. The closer is a lot of fun, an instrumental called “Beale Street Christmas Jam,” where the band members take turns fitting classic Christmas songs into a 12-bar blues shuffle.
Uncle Mick’s Christmas Album has a pretty high spot in my list of Favorite Yuletide Albums. Chances are pretty good that it will occupy a high spot on yours, too. Check it out. ~ Blues Bytes
Bman’s Blues Report
I just had the opportunity to review the most recent release, Uncle Mick’s Christmas Album, by Mick Kolassa, and it’s quite entertaining. Opening with Mariah Carey’s, All I Want For Christmas, and I think its a real solid cover. Never been crazy about pop music and Kolassa’s slow bluesy approach with Jeff Jensen on lead guitar, Bill Ruffino on bass, Rick Steff on keys and James Cunningham on drums gives this track a new, fresher life. Original track, The Best Christmas Ever, is up next with a funky R&B approach. Kolassa on lead vocal and with warm backing vocals by Reba Russell and Susan Marshall over cool piano and organ work by Steff set a nice stage and pinched down guitar soloing by Jensen adds spice. Johnny Moore’s Merry Christmas Baby really gives Jensen a chance to show some real nice riffs both bluesy and jazzy making it one of my favorites on the release. Tom tom laden rhythm gives Jingle Bells and whole new face. Get far enough from the music that you can’t hear the words and I defy you to determine that it’s Jingle Bells. This swampy, Dr Joh like approach is really cool and again, Jensen’s guitar work adds real shine to the apple. Very nice. Wrapping the release is a Jensen/Kolassa original, Beale Street Christmas Jam, a hot shuffle ala Gatemouth Brown style. Jensen always has great riffs, and here he’s complimented by Marc Franklin on trumpet (solo), Cunningham on drums (solo), Ruffino on bass (solo), Eric Hughes on harmonica (solo). This track will get your foot tapping. Excellent closer. ~ Bman’s
Reflections In Blue
It takes quite a bit for a Christmas album to get my attention…and even more for me to honestly like it. Mick Kolassa has done all that, and more. Uncle Mick’s Christmas Album is one of those things that I can see myself playing throughout the year. Memphis Blues through and through, the album offers a fresh take on some holiday classics, and a trio of new tunes that capture the Christmas spirit. Recorded in the 95-degree heat of a Memphis summer, the album features Mick, with some of the finest musicians Memphis has to offer, doing what they do best. The result is upbeat, soulful, funky, and absolutely respectful of the genre. Mariah Carey may strike a killer pose in her Santa suit, but Mick’s rendition of “All I Want For Christmas Is You” is, hands down, the best version of the tune I have heard to date. That is followed by “Frosty The Snowman” with a bit of New Orleans flair. Other classics include “Merry Christmas Baby”, “Jingle Bells”, “Winter Wonderland”, and “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”. The original tunes offer insight into what Christmas is all about. “The Best Christmas Ever” is a funky and soulful love song, “Christmas Morning Blues” is a reminder that not all Christmases are merry, and “Beale Street Christmas Jam” gives each of the musicians to strut their stuff. This album is sure to brighten your holiday season. Merry Christmas to all. – Bill Wilson
Mick Kolassa’s recently released holiday music collection, Uncle Mick’s Christmas Album is unquestionably one of the top titles in this year’s field of new holiday music records. That is proven from beginning to end of the nearly 40-minute record through its unique originals and equally enjoyable covers. Among the most notable of the originals featured in this record is its penultimate entry, ‘Christmas Morning Blues.’ This song is so fun in part because of its musical arrangement. The musical arrangement is a clear Chicago-based blues sound. The use of the harmonica and guitar immediately conjures thoughts of the best works of Junior Wells. At the same time, there is no denying the influence of B.B. King here, especially in the combination of the guitar line, the sound of the drums (thanks to the production) and even Kolassa’s own vocals. Kolassa’s vocals are so eerily similar to those of King through their tone and delivery style. This even as the picture of Kolassa on the record’s cover makes him look like a cross between a bluesy Santa and a perfect fit as a member of ZZ Top. ~ MORE >>
Normally I don’t like Christmas albums much, but ‘Uncle Mick’s Christmas Album’ will certainly get quite a few spins at the end of the year. An absolute must to get through the Christmas season! MORE>>
Michael Doherty’s Music Log
Sure, the holiday is over and it’s time to take down the decorations. But why not listen to a good holiday blues album while you pull down the tinsel and box up the bulbs? Mick Kolassa has just the thing, Uncle Mick’s Christmas Album, featuring a mix of covers and original material, all with a great Memphis sound. Joining the vocalist and guitarist on this release are Jeff Jensen on guitar, Bill Ruffino on bass, Rick Steff on keyboards, James Cunningham on drums, Eric Hughes on harmonica, and Marc Franklin on trumpet, with Reba Russell and Susan Marshall on backing vocals. The arrangements are by Mick Kolassa and Jeff Jensen. ~ MORE >>
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 >>MORE >>
Posted in News, Press & Reviews