By admin on June 14, 2021
Mick Kolassa has once again teamed up with Jeff Jensen to put together a package of fun. Following the critically acclaimed If You Can’t Be Good, Wasted Youth, is a collection of a dozen tracks with 14 songs, 11 of which are Kolassa originals. The Covid year of 2020, during which Mick lost his wife and several friends, inspired many of the songs on this album.
Stories Behind the Songs
Throwing Away These Blues (Kolassa) 2:27
2020 was a tough year, and I found it easy to feel sorry for myself (as another song will attest), but I’ve never been down for long, I seem to be almost immune to depression, and I hated the feeling. So regardless of how hard than damned year hit me, I knew I needed to move past it, and this song talks about that, it celebrates leaving bad times behind
Wasted Youth (Kolassa) 4:50
I started working on this song a couple years ago, when I was feeling less healthy and more worn down by my years. It is a song about growing older and understanding that our days are limited and realizing that I didn’t realize that years ago. I figured that a lot of blues fans would identify with the song! This track has 3 electric guitars on it, with Jeff Jensen and me paying what could be called a “call and response” as he plays a response to my initial line. Brad Webb adds his slide guitar superpowers to this song and Eric Hughes added his harp to the tune, making this 10 straight albums on which Eric joins me in making music!
It Hurts to Let You Go (Kolassa) 5:58
I wrote this song as a way to prepare myself for the loss of my wife, which I knew was coming soon – but I wanted it to be more general than just my story, I wanted to write it for anyone who is dealing with the loss of someone close to them
I’m Missing You (Kolassa) 3:47
I have an imaginary muse and I write love songs to her often – it seems to be the safe way to go! I wanted it to be funky and celebratory, telling of missing my love while being content to have her. Missing her but secure in her love. Musically I wanted the bass to dominate this song – and I think Bill Ruffino pulled that off!
Easy Doesn’t Live Here (Kolassa) 3:22
Relationships are tough, and to make them work you need to understand that, to accept that love isn’t all cake and cookies. But if love is real, and strong, adversity doesn’t really mean anything! I wanted this song to sound and feel different from others on the album, so I leaned in a Latin direction when composing it and asked the wonderful young guitarist David Julia to add some of his magic to it.
I Can’t Get Enough (Kolassa) 2:57
Another love song to my imaginary muse, meant to be slightly humorous but lots of fun. I asked my friend Anthony Paule to play guitar on this, and he captured the spirit of it beautifully. Marc Franklin (trumpet) and Kirk Smothers (sax) kept that fun spirit going as they rounded the song out.
Feeling Sorry for Myself (Kolassa) 3:04
Despite my regular upbeat attitude and apparent immunity to actual depression, I do get down sometimes and, as 2020 drag on and ever downward, I just let the “feeling down” take me down a bit further. Because I can’t let a good emotion just disappear, I memorialized my own slip into minor depression in this song. I wanted it to feel a bit like a Ray Charles song – Ray would smile through a sad song, and I love that. My good friend Victor Wainwright helped it to sound a little more like Ray!
Touching Bass (Kolassa) 3:23
This song came about as I was simply messing around with a bass guitar, walking around a 12 bar song. Playing with the fact that Bass and Base are homonyms I just started playing with the idea of a bass driven song about touching base
Darkness To Light (War, Young, Traditional) 5:27
I have always wanted to cover Slipping Into Darkness. War’s album The World is a Ghetto is one of my all-time favorites. And this song always just grabs me. I started playing around with it and I just naturally started leaning it toward a reggae feel – which isn’t that far from the original. While playing it the Youngbloods song Darkness Darkness came to mind – it had the same feel and “tone (both songs seem to be about addiction and desperation) and even have similar musical underpinnings (very similar chords) to transition from one to the other. While messing around with variations it struck me that the old spiritual, Wayfaring Stranger, was also similar musically and could be fit into the mix. The combination turns out to tell a story of addiction, despair, death and eventual salvation and reunion with love. That’s why the medley is called Darkness to Light
My Mind Doesn’t Wander (Kolassa) 3:11
Another love song, courtesy of my imaginary muse. I wanted to take this song a step or two away from a traditional blues or rock form (1-4-5 in music speak) but not too far. I asked my longtime friend Brandon Santini to join us on this song because I knew his harp tone could take the song somewhere special – and it sure did.
Pieces of My Past (Kolassa) 6:17
This song is my attempt to say goodbye and good riddance to 2020. When my wife passed away I decided to move away from Mississippi, but not too far – I moved to Memphis! I moved into a much smaller house, which necessitated getting rid of a lot of things, some of which I (we) had carted around for decades. As I downsized – significantly – it occurred to me that I was literally throwing away pieces of my past, which inspired the song.
Edge of a Razor (Kolassa) 3:06
I began writing this song about a dear friend who works harder than anyone else I know, a single mother who stretches herself thin to hold things together and make sure her children secure. Watching her let some things that would be nice for her pass by as she focused on the kids, it struck me that it’s a tenuous situation, living on the edge of a razor. As the song developed and I wrote the verses I came to understand that I was writing this song about hundreds of brave and strong women who have fought through similar challenges. Musically this song consists of my voice and three acoustic guitars, each played in a different manner. I finger-picked the chords of the song and played the bassline with my thumb (channeling my inner folkie) and Jeff Jensen strummed the same chords too give them depth. I asked my friend Albert Castiglia to add a guitar to it, and he provided the perfect complement by playing an acoustic slide guitar. I believe that we each felt the emotion of the song, as each has daughters of our own and understand the reality of the song. Honestly, this song fills me with pride.
Posted in News
By admin on November 16, 2020
The reviews are coming in…
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.
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 >>
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 >>MORE >>
By admin on October 6, 2020
Mick Kolassa and Jeff Jensen have teamed up again to produce Mick’s best album yet! Together they have assembled a heaping helping of Mick’ Free Range Blues. Recording this album in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic was a challenge, but the guys pulled it off! Bringing together a group of musical friends, a group that only Memphis and the surrounding areas can provide, they’ve assembled a diverse collection of songs that are sure to please.
The album opens with “I Can’t Help Myself”, an R&B love song that is Memphis through and through. That’s followed by Mick’s “uncover” of James Taylor’s “Lo and Behold”, which starts out with angels singing then brings down fire and brimstone! The third track is the album’s title track: “If You Can’t Be Good, Be Good At It”, a phrase Mick often uses at the end of a conversation – inspiration comes from many places.
Track #4 is a powerful slow blues in a minor key: “Good Day For The Blues”, a song about everything going wrong. Next is “I’ve Seen”, in which Mick sings about what he has seen and what he most wants to see! In “We Gotta” Mick invites his lady friend to chase the stars and close down bars – soon! Living in the heart of the Mid-South, Mick has developed an appreciation for the region’s favorite beverage, “Sweet Tea”, so, of course, he wrote a song about it!
“Slow and Easy Love” is another slow minor key blues song that is quite popular with the ladies at Mick’s live shows – or at least they were when those were a thing! Mick wrote “Good Night Irene” (no, not that one) for a friend who is a DJ from Down Under.
“Who’s Been Talking” is a classic Howlin’ Wolf song, written by Chester Burnett himself. To record this Mick invited a very special friend – Blues Brother Willie “Too Big” Hall, to play drums – what a treat!
The album closes with “She Kept Her Head Up”, a song he wrote for and about his daughter, Kassi, and her battle with breast cancer. It isn’t blues, but that doesn’t matter!
This album is meant to be fun and sad, to take you up and down – and back up, and to give you plenty of reasons to go back and listen a few more times.MORE >>
Posted in News
By admin on January 20, 2020
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.
By admin on January 20, 2020
Mick Kolassa began this acoustic album when Thomas Schleiken, of Blind Lemon Records, invited him to do some shows in Germany and record a couple songs for a compilation album. What began as a couple songs kept expanding into this – where Mick got a chance to play some of his old favorite songs, as well as a couple of new favorites and some new compositions. It also gave him a chance to stretch his vocal cords and different guitar chords as he traveled through several keys and subgenres of music – a little more exploration of Free Range Blues™. Mick confesses that a few numbers on this album are not blues, or even blues-ish, especially two of his new originals (which are probably best considered “Americana”). But here you have it, music played without electricity!
The album opens with Mick’s take on the Lonnie Johnson song “Mr. Jellyroll Baker”, a song Mick has been singing for about 50 years. Up next is an original “Text Me Baby”, an “old style” song about a new way to communicate. In “Keep On Truckin” Mick adds a banjolele to the mix, and with “I Want To Be Seduced” a baritone ukulele lends its voice to the song. Throughout this album unamplified stringed and percussion instruments carry the music forward.
Mick’s song “Mr. Right” reflects the sexuality of old blues songs, while “Bad Things”, written by Jace Everett, is a modern take on the same subject. Two classic old songs, St. James Infirmary and Ditty Wah Ditty, that have also long been in Mick’s repertoire. “Recycle Me” is another original of Mick’s that is fueled by his sense of humor. “Help”, the well-known Beatles song, is played as a plea rather than an upbeat number, reflecting the depth of the lyrics. The album closes with “The Space Between Us”, a short song about the end of a long relationship – inspired by a movie title, not any personal experience.
Mick was fortunate to be joined on this album by some dear friends and talented artists, as you’ll soon find out!MORE >>
Posted in News