By Don & Sheryl Crow
Mick Kolassa was born in Michigan, but has lived in Mississippi for the last twenty years or so. He’s also a vital player in the Memphis/Beale Street blues scene, and is a member of the Board Of Directors of the Blues Foundation. An accomplished guitarist and vocalist, he has gathered together several of his Beale Street friends to help him in the release of “Michissippi Mick,” twelve cuts of both original, traditional-sounding and contemporary blues that literally traces the history of that fertile region, going back to the days when W. C. Handy wrote many of the staples of the blues canon.
And if that, in and of itself, wasn’t enough, Mick is donating the entire proceeds garnered from the sale of this album to the Foundation’s HART Fund and Generation Blues. The Handy Artists Relief Fund aids blues musicians with dental and health care issues, while Generation Blues provides scholarships to artists under the age of twenty-one to continue their studies in various workshop programs.
Mick has a rich, expressive voice that fits this material well, and his many friends that join in make this a set that will appeal to a wide range of fans. He opens the set with a traditional re-working of Handy’s “New Beale Street Blues,” where “If Beale Street could talk, married men would have to pack up their bags and walk!” It features some nice harp from Beale Street busker Eric Hughes. The set closes also on a traditional note, with a yodelin’ tribute to the Singing Brakeman, “Mississippi River Blues.”
Electric contemporary blues is well-represented by the scorching guitar of Jeff Jensen on “Blues Are All Around You” and the slow-drag of “Baby’s Got Another Lover,” while the Memphis classic “The Letter” is revamped as a slow blues, and “Blues In The Night” features tremendous trumpet trills from Dedrick Davis and harp from Brandon Santini.
Mick has quite a humorous side, too, and those cuts served as our favorites. He has a fun time explaining why it’s sometimes tough watching “White People Dance!” The traditional jug band tune, “Reefer Man,” has Victor Wainwright on piano, and again on Mick’s original tale of “not being half the man I used to be,’, “Time Ain’t On My Side!”
Mick Kolassa has created a set that has something for everyone, and, along with his version of the “Memphis Mafia,” he and his backing players are giving back to the blues community that has built their careers thru the philanthropic donation of the proceeds from this recording. Two big thumbs up for “Michissippi Mick!” Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.