The prolific, recently relocated to Memphis, resilient Mick Kolassa returns with a smile on his face after as devastating a year as any could endure. Kolassa lost his wife and many close friends but rather than sinking into maudlin self-pity, these losses inspire the album as Kolassa, in his own inimitable way, celebrates the transition to a ‘new life.” Once again, he teams with guitarist Jeff Jensen as his co-producer. Together they tap a large group of familiar blues artists and Memphis session greats for what they’ve dubbed The Endless Blues Band. Kolassa penned all but one of the dozen songs. That one “Darkness to Light” is a medley of Mick’s favorites – War’s “Slipping into Darkness,” The Youngbloods “Darkness, Darkness” and the old spiritual “Wayfaring Stranger.” Generously, all net proceeds from the album will go to The Blues Foundation and two of their important programs.
The core band is Jensen, bassist Bill Rufino, keyboardist Rick Steff, drummers James Cunningham or Doug McMinn. Marc Franklin (trumpet) and Kirk Smothers (saxophones) take the horn parts. The others on select tracks include backing vocalist Tullie Brae, harmonicists Brandon Santini and Eric Hughes, guitarists Brad Webb, Albert Castiglia, David Julia, and Anthony Paule, pianist Victor Wainwright, violinist Alice Hasen and percussionist Vickey Loveland. Interestingly, Kolassa does not refer to them as guests but part of this large aggregation, The Endless Blues Band.
He comes to grip with the past year from the outset in the upbeat “Throwing Away These Blues” with the horns, background vocals, Jensen’s piercing lead, and Steff’s rollicking piano leading the way. “Wasted Youth” speaks to what many of us now sadly realize, we don’t appreciate youth until it’s long gone. This is medium tempo shuffle with Brad Webb’s slide guitar and Eric Hughes’ harmonica providing the musical muscle. And, as expected, there’s a direct song about loss in “It Hurts to Let You Go,’ a slow burner with Jensen cleanly hitting the right notes while Steff steers the B3 in a church-like mode, and the horns swell as the choruses build in this standout. “I’m Missing You” picks up the pace, moving into funky territory.
“Easy Doesn’t Live Here” chronicles love’s bump ride with David Julia stepping out on guitar while another guitar great, Anthony Paule wields his axe in “I Can’t Get Enough,” which has one of the strongest horn charts. He ruminates about his personal tragedies in “Feeling Sorry for Myself,” imbued by Victor Wainwright’s bluesy piano. “Touching Bass” is the antidote to that one, a love song about separation, spotlighting bassist Bill Ruffino who adeptly using the wah-wah in his solo, along with impressive piano from Steff.
“Darkness To Light” begins with “I was slipping into darkness when they took my friends away” as Jensen and violinist Alice Hasen take us higher in their solos, segueing into the verses of The Youngbloods song, followed by “Wayfaring Stranger” as Tullie Brae’s harmonies soar behind Kolassa. Brandon Santini’s harmonica introduces the stomper, “My Mind Doesn’t Wander” before we get to another standout track, “Pieces of My Past,” a slow blues that speaks to the downsizing Kolassa underwent when moving to Memphis. Again, Jensen and Steff are particularly strong in support. “Edge of a Razor” moves into that signature Kolassa acoustic mode with the leader picking, Jensen chording, and Albert Castiglia playing the resonator.
This is another from the solid Kolassa- Jensen partnership, another strong chapter in Kolassa’s extensive catalog from spare acoustic blues outings to fully fleshed out band projects such as this one. His resilient spirt is as admirable as his songwriting and musicianship.
Help Support Making a SceneYour Support helps us pay for our server and allows us to continue to bring you the best coverage for the Indie Artists and the fans that Love them!
Subscribe to Our Newsletter
Find our Podcasts on these outlets