The Beatles As Blues – ‘You Can’t Do That’

The Beatles As Blues – ‘You Can’t Do That’

“Michissippi” Mick Kolassa and Mark Telesca
do just that by bluesifying the Fab Four.

By JD Nash – American Blues Scene

It’s well known that the Beatles began as a skiffle group in England. Steeped in blues and R&B influences, they almost single-handedly created the genre of pop music. But what would have happened, had they directed themselves away from the sounds of Chicago, and more toward those of Clarksdale? Two Delta blues disciples, and major Fab 4 fans, have figured it out.

“Michissippi” Mick Kolassa and Mark Telesca have done what many said couldn’t be done. They bluesified a small chunk of the Beatles songbook. What’s more, they’ve done it brilliantly. You Can’t Do That! on the Swingsuit label is parenthetically described as an Acoustic Blues Beatles Tribute, and that description is spot on.

Kolassa (vocals, guitar, percussion), who finds his greatest joy in finding the blues hidden in every song he hears, found a Beatles soul-mate in Telesca (vocals, guitar, bass) at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis a couple years back. They began sharing their individual interpretations of blues style mop top songs, and before long were collaborating on the creation of this album.

Memphis based blues wild man, Jeff Jensen joined the mix, adding both his incredible guitar and producing prowess. The remaining artists are made up of James Cunningham (drums/percussion), Marc Franklin (trumpet and flugelhorn), Eric Hughes (guitar and harmonica), and Tommy Boroughs (fiddle and mandolin). Then the magic really began.

This is a completely acoustic release. There are no amplifiers or effects pedals. Instead, we get the back porch feel of resonator and acoustic guitars, along with other traditional, and some not-so traditional instruments. Furthermore, the combination of vocals provided by Kolassa and Telesca, as oxymoronic as it may first seem, blends into an astonishingly delicious stew.

When we hit play, the muted Dixieland trumpet of Franklin blessed our ears. But, this can’t be a Beatles song – can it? “I’ve got every reason on Earth to be sad. I just lost the only girl I had.” That’s blues, all blues and nothing but the blues. They’re also the opening words to the 1964 Lennon/McCartney song, “I’ll Cry Instead.” Originally so rooted in country/western that Chet Atkins covered it two years later, it comes across here as swanky, and blues-filled.

The second track, “Can’t Buy Me Love,” has Telesca providing the vocals on a capricious version of the #1 hit. Perhaps the most poppish of the songs on You Can’t Do That!, it was also the original A-side of the title track on 45. Speaking of the title track, Kolassa again does the singing on a not-so famous classic. The duo decided on this one as a title for two reasons. One, the original song has a deep blues connection in the writing, and two, because that’s what a lot of people told them when they heard about the project. Hughes provides both guitar and harmonica on this one, coming across as true country blues.

Hughes’ harmonica also adds some appetizing appeal to the slow drag rendition of “I Feel Fine.” On “Fixing a Hole,” it’s Telesca providing some sweet Spanish guitar work, and a powerful vocal delivery. We first hear Boroughs on “Lady Madonna,” his gypsy style, crying fiddle adding some perfect accompaniment as well as a tasty little solo. “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road,” originally from the notorious White Album, gets the full on blues treatment with some satisfying slide flavor.

Mixing a combination of hit songs, along with some lesser known classics, gives You Can’t Do That! another step above some earlier attempts to bluesify the Beatles. This is not just a blues tinted greatest hits project. It is rather, a collection of personal favorites, dissected by a group of master craftsmen, then given new life, sans electricity.

Retaining the songs’ origins by keeping all the tracks under the four minute mark, our personal favorite is the shortest track on the album. Clocking in at just 1:38, “She Came In Through the Bathroom Window,” is a bluegrass hit. An upbeat finale’, including Boroughs’ deft mandolin playing, it’s like all the fireworks going off at once.

Songs written by Lennon and McCartney have been covered ad nauseum. John wasn’t really a fan of most Beatles music, while Paul seems thrilled whenever anyone covers his songs. There are Beatles fanatics that won’t like this album. “Sacrilege!” we can hear them cry. But to our ears, You Can’t Do That! is pure bliss. Kolassa, Telesca & Company have taken the heartfelt lyrics of one of the world’s most popular songwriting teams, and matched the music to their individual moods. We can’t imagine it being any better – unless of course, they come out with a sequel.



Cashbox Music reviews new CD
You Can’t Do That!

Mick Kolassa and Mark Telesca are bluesmen to the core, who have been honing their craft for decades. Through constant touring, releasing albums, and appearing as sidemen on countless albums released by friends, they have achieved the respect of their peers and a degree of commercial success.

They engaged in an impromptu jam session at the 2016 Blues Music Awards. They fused the blues with a number of Beatles songs. That ultimately led to their new  album You Can’t Do That, which are acoustic blues versions of 11 songs by John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

Kolassa and Telesca are both guitarists and vocalists, but they added additional guitarist and album producer Jeff Jenson to the mix, which gives the music extra depth and textures. They then added a harmonica here, a fiddle there, and even a trumpet to fill in the gaps.

It is a tight album as they stay true to the length of the songs. They improvise within the structure of the compositions and do not go on any extended journeys.

They also delve a little deeper into the Beatles catalogue. They chose songs that were adaptable to their style of blues rather than just selecting their best-known songs. “I’ll Cry Instead,” “Fixing A Hole,” “She’s A Woman,” and “Mean Mr. Mustard/Polythene Pam” are perfect for their bluesy guitars and intricate picking.

They are more adventurous on some of the Beatles up-tempo numbers. “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Lady Madonna,” and the title track are twisted out of shape, plus they play with the tempos.

Mick Kolassa and Mark Telesca have managed to recreate a number of Beatles songs in ways that have not been previously explored, which is quite an achievement in itself after all the years. You Can’t Do That is worth a listen for any fan of the Beatles or the blues.

By David Bowling – Cashbox Music Reviews

Rating: ****


Three Independent Blues Awards Nominations!

We’re excited to announce we have been nominated for three Independent Blues Awards!

  • Contemporary Blues Album – Taylor Made Blues
  • Traditional Blues  Song – “Taylor Made Blues”
  • Best Song for the Common Good – “In The Day”

Voting is open until August 1, 2017 and the winners will be announced August 13, 2017.



Mick Kolassa & Mark Telesca release
an acoustic Beatles blues album

What do you get when two blues musicians get together to celebrate their mutual love of some of the most classic songs of the 20th Century? A great new album! Mick Kolassa and Mark Telesca Have teamed up to bring two mutual loves together: the Blues and the Beatles. This album is the kind of thing that happens when two musicians get together and decide to make some magic. They called the album You Can’t Do That, which refers to a great song that has the blues all over it as well as what many people told them when they said we were going to do the record: you can’t to that! For many, including Mick and Mark, this music is nearly sacred, but as blues artists they find and feel the blues in everything they hear, and the blues flows through the music of the Beatles more so than it does through other forms of popular music, so uncovering it was not too difficult – but oh so pleasurable!

Jeff Jensen joined the team to produce the album and together with Mark and Mick put together some pretty fancy guitar work, and with a little help from their friends the guys got this project off the ground – way off the ground! Reworking these classic tunes into blues arrangements was a joy for the artists, who brought the Beatles into many different styles of blues – but always with acoustic arrangements, no amplifiers or pedals were used in the production of this album! Instead you’ll find resonator and multiple acoustic guitars, harmonica, trumpets, flugelhorns and even a fiddle and mandolin.

Never forget, all you need is blues!



Midwest Record Reviews – You Can’t Do That!

I’ve heard hypothesis that if Beatles jumped in the van, ala Police, and toured America, they would have been a great roots band by the time they covered the country. Well….., a lot of people say a lot of things. Mick & Mark must have heard this saying and had a light bulb moment. They love blues and Beatles so they did the only thing that made sense to them—make a back porch version of Beatles songs sticking to what’s appropriate to the form rather than taking the soft landing of forcing the hits into the mold, ala gift shop music. There’s been plenty of jazz Beatles over the years but acoustic blues? Mick & Mark must have had this in the back of their minds for quite a while because the results are stunningly original and well thought out. Just the thing to drive Beatles fans that think they’ve heard everything nuts, it’s almost unthinkable to think someone could make this stuff their own but this duo does it in fine style. Hot stuff no matter how the fire burns with consistent low heat.

Midwest Record