Mick Rainsford / Blues In Britain Magazine June 8, 2011
Two Album Reviews...
Mikey Jr – Mikey Likes It
8th Train Records 8TH050
Mikey Jr – It Ain’t Hard To Tell
8th Train Records 8TH090
Mikey Jr is one of the most outstanding of the young harmonica players currently keeping the blues of the likes of Junior Wells, James Cotton, George Smith, Walter Horton, Little Walter & Sonny Boy Williamson II alive on the blues scene today.
Mikey mixes well chosen covers with a selection of fine originals that effectively capture the mood and feel of 50’s/60’s Chicago without slavishly imitating the artists who have inspired him – a facet that also applies to his own playing which respects tradition but is permeated indelibly with his own style and character.
“Mikey Likes It” is the earlier of these two CDs and opens with him giving a West coast slant to Little Walter’s “Everythings Gonna Be Alright”, the feel accentuated by shimmering fretwork from Dave Gross. Mikey’s original “Treat Me Right” pays homage the Rice Miller – even down to the sly vocals – Bill Heid’s cascading piano and Robert Lockwood style guitar accentuating the Sonny Boy feel.
“The Prowler” is pure George Smith, a moody blues enhanced by the mellow beauty of Mikey’s harp and Matt Daniels’ guitar. – “What You Say” is a jumping William Clarke styled blues permeated with shades of Rice Miller – whilst “I’m Drunk Again” is an Harmanesque styled strutter replete with Memphis slim styled piano from Bill Heid.
“It Ain’t Hard To Tell” jumps forward 3 years and finds Mikey’s voice toughening up and maturing whilst his harp has become even more expressive with a fatter tone and more compelling and creative phrasing.
Once again Mikey is joined by the knockout rhythm section of Jimmy Pritchard (bass) and Adam Stranburg (drums), with Matt Daniels again excelling on guitar.
Again the set is a potent mix of covers and originals – Jimmy Rogers’ “What Have I Done” given a moody reading replete with Steve Guyger inspired harp and Lockwood inflected guitar – whilst Mikey’s admiration for George Smith is evident in two Smith classics, the brooding “Telephone Blues” and the funky instrumental “Hawaiian Eye”, where Daniels’ guitar has a strong Kid Ramos feel. Robert Johnson’s “32/20 Blues” features Broonzy styled guitar and harp that melds the influences of SBW1, Jimmy Reed and Jazz Gillum – “Mikey’s At The Bar” swings in true Hollywood Fats style – Billy Boy Arnold’s “I Wish You Would” is permeated with a strong West Coast feel – whilst “Chitlin Con Carne” exquisitely melds Smith and Clarke with Daniels laying down some beautifully understated guitar.
Add in a compelling “Can’t Be Satisfied” where Mikey melds the influences of George Smith and Carey Bell – the Harmanesque “Mikey’s Out Back” with it’s Ramos inspired guitar – and the Wells/Cotton inspired title track, and you have a set that proclaims Mikey Jr as a true “keeper of the blues flame”. (www.mikeyjunior.com)
Mikey Junior: Press
NEW ALBUM REVIEW!!
"It Ain't Hard To Tell"
8th Train Records, 8TH090
By Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro © May 2011
My introduction to this flamboyant and charismatic guy was at the 3rd Annual Delta Groove All-Star Blues Revue at Ground Zero in Clarksdale, MS back in May of 2008.
That night he showed the audience the meaning of "taking the stage by storm". Out of nowhere - and quite frankly I don't recall if he was introduced, or even invited - he came flying up to the stage, did a tremendously aggressive harp solo in which he absolutely blew his brains out, then he flew from the stage as quickly as he had appeared. Although cheering wildly, many of the people in the room - myself included - didn't even know who he was. Once I found out his name, I knew that one day I'd be happily writing about Mikey Jr.
Being a mere baby by blues standards, "It Ain't Hard To Tell" is this thirty-ish year old's sixth release. On it Mikey Jr, on harmonica and vocals, is joined by Matt Daniels on guitar, Jimmy Pritchard on bass, and Adam Stranburg on drums. The disc contains fourteen tracks of which about 60% of them are covers, 40% of them are originals with 100% of them being very well done.
The title track, an original called "It Ain't Hard To Tell", pretty much lays the ground work for what you'll hear on most of the tracks.... Tight rhythm, great harp and a hard vocal style similar to none.
I think Mikey and I - and possibly a bunch of you as well - may have a common friend. He's that guy that never spends any dough and disappears whenever the bill comes around. You know him, right? Sure you do, his name is "Cheapskate". Obviously there are none of them in the band because everyone's putting in more than their due on this one. Smokin' rhythm, fiery guitar leads and wailing vocals and harp. Real good stuff.
A slow jazzy type instrumental is a perfect way for Mikey, and the rest of the band as well, to catch their breath and "Chitlin Con Carne" is just that. Interjecting relaxed harmonica and guitar leads into the mix of a smooth, steady rhythm create a wonderfully mellow melody.
Another original track, titled "You All Alone", features some of the discs best guitar work. It's just a few seconds over two minutes long but that's enough time for Matt to have Beethoven rolling over.
It's a low down dirty thing when you call your baby and another man answers the phone and "Telephone Blues" is about as low down and dirty as this disc gets. The gut wrenching vocals, the mournful sounds of the harp, and the scorching leads on the guitar equally convey a pronounced feeling of pain.
Two instrumental tracks on which Mikey is noticeably missing in action are appropriately, and quite cleverly, titled "Mikey's At The Bar" and "Mikey's Out Back". They were obviously recorded while he went for a cocktail and then for a cigarette or some fresh air. Both tracks feature amazing guitar and rhythm work from Matt, Jimmy and Adam. While he's at the bar, the guys got into a fast and frenzied jam and when he's out back they slow it down to a very relaxed and mellow pace. Regardless, both tracks are great.
For more about Mikey Jr check him out at www.mikeyjunior.com. Once you're there, think about picking up some of his music and make sure you tell him the Blewzzman sent you.
Interestingly, when Mikey Jr sent me this disc, he also sent one from his band mates - Matt and Jimmy. I'm happy to say that they will both be featured in my next two reviews.
“…He attacks his diatonic with a demonic vengeance and is smooth as southern comfort on ice when playing the chromatic, Mikey Junior is a rapidly rising blues harp performer, and rightfully so…”
Jeff Silverman, Harmonica 411.com 2010 www.Harmonica411.com
"…Mikey Jr. and the Stone Cold Blues -- remember that name -- laid down some serious, tough, old-fashioned blues last night at the Thunderbird Cafe. A lot of young bluesmen just pay tribute to the music -- Mikey Jr. has become the music he loves."
Pittsburgh Post Gazette 2009
“…If he keeps Blowing Harmonica like that , people gonna find out who Mikey Junior is real soon”
Sonny Rhodes 2009
“… As a rising star of the blues scene, I expect to see much more of Mikey Jr. making his way around the blues festival circuits in the near future”
Cobbler John Bolen, President of The Blues, Jazz & Folk Music Society in Marietta, OHIO 2008
“… I have never seen a crowd keep to their seats when Mikey Jr. & The Stone Cold Blues are on the stage”
Kelli Tome “Bluesgirl” www.fullmoonblues.com 2008
“… It’s nice to see young people playing some Real Blues”
Debbie Davies 2008
“… We’ve had Mikey in-doors, and we’ve had Mikey out-doors, and he’s blown our audience away each time. He’s a great harp player, a killer showman, and he’s got a real hot band.
Steve Tanzer Promoter-Arden Concert Gild www.ardenclub.com 2008
“… I would highly recommend Mikey Jr. & Stone Cold Blues for any type of event. You will not be disappointed!”
Gene Fontana / Director Diamond State Blues Society www.diamondstateblues.com 2008
“… Each member of the band compliments the other with their talents and at the end of the night all you can say is “WOW”
Marko Wellbank President Bucks County Motorcycle Association. www.bcma1996.net 2008
“… Mikey Junior is exactly what blues needs today — talented, engaging and young. He bridges the gap between generations of music lovers and makes it cool to love something old-school. At the same time, he has gained the respectability of his blues peers and contemporaries, by staying true to the genre — all the while, remaining true to Mikey Junior, as well.”
Lori Donovan 2008-contributing writer for Blues Revue Magazine
“… The legacy of immortals like Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson II, and Big Walter Horton lives on in the infectious harmonica blues of Mikey Jr., a true apostle of joy.”
Thomas J. Cullen 2007- contributing writer for Blues Revue Magazine and founder of the oldest Blues Society in America, the acclaimed Bucks County Blues Society
“ ...blues is in his Soul, the kid is a harmonica wizard.”
Tim Marshall, Rhythm & Blues Showcase WBZC 88.9/99.5FM 2006
“… Mikey does it his way, and that’s the best way. This guy rules on the harp.”
Mike Vagnoni, Out On The Town Magazine 2005
“ ...his Knowledge of Traditional Blues Harp is impressive and his high end
work on the instrument is as clean and as strong as players twice his age.”
“ ...This young man plays with a lot of soul.”
Larry Cotton, In The Basement Magazine 2003
“ ...Mikey Jr. rocks into the future guided by the wisdom of the harmonica greats, a real harmonica prodigy.”
John Francis, Best Lil’ Harp House 2003
“ ...At the not-so-grizzled age of 22 Mikey Junior is one of the areas more coveted blues musicians, playing Traditional Classic Blues in a warm gritty style that belies his inexperience, truly a master in the making.”
Andy Vineberg, Bucks County Courier Times 2002
Mikey Junior & Matt Daniels
Pocket Full of Money
8th Train Records, 8TH070
John Mitchell of Blues Blast Magazine
Mikey Junior is a native of New Jersey and has played harmonica and sung since his teenage years. This is his fourth CD release and is in acoustic trio format with regular guitarist Matt Daniels and Jimmy Pritchard on upright bass. Mikey also runs a full band called “Mikey Junior And The Cold Stone Blues” which will be competing at the IBCs in February. Mikey endears himself to any reviewer by providing a humorous press release which informs us that Mikey and Matt met while auditioning for “So You Think You Can Dance” – a likely story! Each of the players contributes one original song. Mikey’s “We Made A Mistake” features some tough harp on a song of regret at the end of a relationship (“No matter who I’m with it’s you I’m thinking of”). Matt’s “North Country Blues” is an instrumental that does pretty well what the title suggests, Matt’s guitar sympathetically underpinned by Jimmy’s bass. Jimmy’s effort opens the CD and provides the title of the CD. It provides a good start to the CD locating the music in classic acoustic blues before we get versions of four RJ, two Muddy Waters and one tune from the pen of Junior Wells. All are well done and clearly recorded, but does the world need more versions of these classic songs? Well the truth is that Mikey will probably sell more CDs off the bandstand after people enjoy his shows. Nevertheless for someone who has not seen the live show the CD works well and I particularly enjoyed the up-tempo version of “They’re Red Hot”, the stately version of “Me And The Devil Blues” and the rolling tempo of closer “You Don’t Have To Go”. All three originals work well and suggest that next time round they might do more original music and fewer covers. The CD is a good introduction to Mikey Jr. and friends’ music and should appeal to all lovers of well recorded acoustic blues. Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He recently attended the Blues Blast Awards in Chicago and had a great time! Back in the USA for the January 2011 Blues Cruise!
March 6, 2010
Pittsburgh Post Gazzette (Show Review)
Mikey Jr. and the Stone Cold Blues -- remember that name -- laid down some serious, tough, old-fashioned blues last night at the Thunderbird Cafe. A lot of young bluesmen just pay tribute to the music -- Mikey Jr. has become the music he loves. The Jersey native was a pleasant surprise last night, and the sparse crowd at the T-Bird seemed equally impressed with his excellent harp work and tough vocals. He's young -- 26 or 27 -- but he's really absorbed the blues that he plays and made them his own. And he's young enough that he hasn't yet learned the meaning of the word "nice and easy." Well, okay, that's three words. But he sweats, shouts and blows his way through the blues with all the subtlety of a freight train. Mikey enthusiastically blended tough old blues and tough new originals so well that it was hard to tell where one began and the other ended, or that Mikey wasn't just the reincarnation of some tough old bluesguy himself. One of the best things about his work was that it didn't just draw on a few old blues harp chestnuts. When was the last time you heard anyone sing Robert Johnson's "Hot Tamales," let alone do it with a harp? He made Slim Harpo's "Scratch My Back" sound fresh and his original "Whiskey by the Glass" was a fine triple shot of a blues drinking song. And except maybe for Kurt Cobain, when was the last time you heard anyone sing the mournful song most associated with Leadbelly, "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?" And he caressed "Summertime" with his harp in ways that make you feel almost embarrassed to watch. Mikey's powerful, gritty vocals are just as much a treat as his harp work. Shut your eyes and you'll hear a voice that you'd swear just couldn't happen in a twenty-something white dude from Jersey. The same goes for his strong, versatile harp work. The Stone Cold Blues band isn't exactly just standing around while Mikey works hard. The band crackles, too, with Matt Daniels crackling especially hard on guitar, Jimmy Pritchard on bass and Adam Stranburg on drums. These guys are good. May they come back soon, to a bigger crowd.
SOME MORE REVIEWS...
July 20, 2007
Look Inside My Pocket
8th Train Records, 8TH050
Mikey Likes It
8th Train Records, 8TH60
"Mikey Jr is a young harmonica prodigy from New Jersey whose playing and gritty vocals have already attracted plenty of attention in USA. The first of these albums dates from 2006 Look Inside My Pocket and opening track, 'I Had a Woman' rocks along in fine style and immediately establishes Mikey's credibility, with strong vocals and superb harp work. Most of the material is self-penned and the funky shuffle of 'All About You' shows that this young man has certainly done his homework listening to the Blues greats - he already sings with plenty of soul and plays harp with an aggressive edge when called for. Standout track on this CD is that old chestnut, 'Summertime', which gets a wonderfully classy, stripped down, emotive reading on chromatic harp. The latest release Mikey Likes It finds Mikey teamed with an all-star band playing some of his personal favorites, plus a handful of strong original compositions. A cover of Little Walter's 'Everything's Gonna Be Alright' features some impressive harp playing and cracking support from the band. The slow blues, 'Treat Me Right' allows Mikey to display his mastery of the high register and also features fine piano from Bill Heid. Willie Dixon's, 'I'm Ready' is a fast shuffle, featuring great, fat toned harp playing from Mikey and swinging work from the whole band. The self-penned and jazzy instrumental, 'The Prowler' features more of Mikey's impressive chromatic harp and tasty guitar from Matt Daniels. Sonny Boy Williamson's 'Mighty Long Time' is a slow blues featuring upright bass from Mike Lampe and excellent acoustic harp from Mikey along with heartfelt vocals. These two are fine albums from an extremely promising young artist." Blues Matters CD Review