Reflections in Blue Blog Reviews “Taylor Made Blues”

Kolassa-TaylorMade-coverEvery time I get another recording to review I find myself questioning…just what is the blues and, what makes one tune a blues song while the next falls short? Then I have the newest release from Mick Kolassa come through my mail slot. Mick is on the Board of Directors of the Blues Foundation. That and $10 will buy him a cup of coffee in a dive. What I do find of interest is the fact that he has had a love affair with the blues that has lasted 50 years. Add to that the fact that he is a lifelong musician and things start to fall into place. A very good guitarist at the very least, Kolassa, is very well-versed in the history and traditions of the blues, has a voice made for the genre and is a superb songwriter as well. Aside from the Temptations hit, “Can’t Get Next To You”, Graham Nash’s “Prison Song”, “Lungs” by Townes Van Zandt, and the classic poem “Keep A Goin”, which he reworked into a gospel number, everything on the album was written by Mick. He is a master wordsmith, who writes from personal experiences, often with a comedic twist, but always with a definite point in mind. Taylor Made Blues has him accompanied by a host of the best performers the business has to offer including Jeff Jensen on electric & acoustic guitars, Bill Ruffino on bass, James Cunningham on drums & percussion, Chris Stephenson on piano & organ, Colin John on Lap Steel, Resonator, Baby Sitar and Baritone guitars, Deb Landolt on vocal solo & backing vocals, Eric Hughes on harmonica, Reba Russell on backing vocals, Victor Wainwright on piano, Castro Coleman on guitar and Tullie Brae on backing vocals. All top-notch professionals, this band pulls off an album that is worthy of taking a spot among the works of past masters. Everyone does his or her job without need of showing off or letting egos get in the way. The music comes first and foremost. The result is an album that is sure to stand strong for the long haul. True blues is much more than a simple musical form…it is a way of life, something that cannot be seperated from the lifestyle of the artists. Bluesmen of old told their stories in a very straight-forward fashion, without whimpering or complaining…this is just the way it was. Like modern counselors, blues performers presented their stories in a way that told the listener “This is what happened to me and I made it through just fine. You can do so as well.” In either case, whether happy or sad, they managed to touch the heart of the listener. Mick Kolassa, a superb storyteller in his own right manages to evoke an emotional response as well…in his case, often quite funny. Blues, from the works of Charley Patton to Muddy Waters, Magic Slim and countless others, always touched the heart. The same can be said for Mick Kolassa. Add the fact that all proceeds from the sale of his albums go to the Hart Foundation (Handy Artists Relief Trust), which helps blues artists and their families with the financial burdens that come as a result of health concerns and related issues or Generation Blues, which gives young artists the opportunity to study their instrument of choice in reputable places, taught by many of the best in their own particular field of study, and you see an even clearer picture. Here is a man who believes wholeheartedly in what he is doing and is willing to put his money where his mouth is. This is more than a job. If that is not reason enough to buy the album, it is truly one of the finest pieces of work I have heard so far this year. If you are a fan of blues, this is a perfect opportunity to add a great album to your collection and to help further the cause as well. As for the question “What is a bluesman?”…I present Mick Kolassa.

Bill Wilson
Reflections in Blue

Mick on the porch of the Taylor Grocery – photo by Key to Life Photography