CD REVIEWS – Wooden Music

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.


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 >>