In recent days I've started to receive unsolicited review material in the mail from various music companies and promoters. I guess I should be taking that as a compliment that people think highly enough of my work, or highly enough of the sites that publish me anyway, that they think it worthwhile to seek my opinion of their product.
The problem is that more then three-quarters of the time I listen to one track of the disc and know that there's no way I can listen to the whole thing and retain my sanity. In those cases I merely write the company back and say, "I don't think I'm the person best suited to reviewing this product and I'm unfamiliar with this type of music." The hard part is trying to think of a tactful way to tell them to stop sending me stuff unless I ask for it. What it usually comes down to is saying, "Stop sending me shit unless I ask for it."
But once in a while I get lucky and a company, generally not the ones I've told to stop sending me stuff, will send me something that I would have regretted missing out on. Earlier this week a disc showed up in my mail box from one of my contacts who nine times out of ten sends stuff she knows I can review, and this one was no exception.
I'd never heard of Stacy Mitchhart before, which of course means nothing as there are probably a million or more acts out there who would meet the same criteria, but my attention was caught by the fact that he plays a resonator guitar. I have a soft spot for resonator guitars and willing to give anyone who claims to play one the benefit of the doubt that they know what they are doing with it.
After listening to Stacy's forthcoming release, (Sept. 18, 2007), Gotta Get The Feeling Back Again there are no doubts in my mind that this man knows what he's doing not only with a resonator guitar, but with anything to do with the blues. I'd never thought of Cincinnati, Ohio as a hot bed for blues players before, but if Stacy is an example of the quality of musician that comes out of there they could give Chicago a run for it's money as a breeding ground for great players.
There are people who play the blues who are technically fine, but lack the intangible quality of heart and soul that elevates them beyond being merely a player. It's a feeling you get when listening to someone, the feeling that each note they play or sing is costing them something emotionally, that makes the difference. It's like the difference between the person who asks you how you're doing as part of a meaningless salutation and the person who really wants to know how you are feeling
If Stacy Mitchhart were to ask you how were doing, you know that he'd mean every word of it. His music is the real thing with each note he plays on anyone of his guitars, and each note that he sings sounding like it's coming straight from his heart. He incorporates all sorts of styles into his music, country, soul, R&B, and early rock 'n' roll, to build his own unique sound. But at its core it's the blues.
The other thing about him is that you can tell that he has a great time doing what he does. It comes through in the sound of his voice and in the arrangements of his songs. It's especially true on what for me is the highlight of this disc; his medley/interpretation of the old Led Zeppelin tunes "Black Dog" and "Whole Lotta Love." I'd never been a fan of the hard rock school of Blues that Zeppelin practiced so I was a bit tentative about listening to covers of their music.
That was before I read the notes the publicist sent out including Stacy's cut-by-cut analysis of the CD. "I've never been a big Led Zeppelin fan personally…" were the first words he'd written about his version. But everybody at their gigs was always yelling out for them to play their music. What he did was take the songs and rework them back into Delta blues numbers, much like the music that originally inspired the songs in the first place.
His versions of the songs are nothing short of amazing as he plays them on his resonator guitar and turns them into old "Hollar" style blues numbers. When his voice breaks in "Black Dog" its from genuine emotion, not because he's some rock 'n' roll prima donna. Underneath everything, the music, and the singing, you can almost hear a thread of laughter running as he's performing the song. It finally breaks through when he comes to the Led Zepplin line: "I don't know, but I've been told/Big legged women ain't got no soul."
He stops the song in order to read out the lyric (saying "large," though, instead of "big") as if to say can you believe this shit, and says something like, "That ain't right," then moves back into the song again. On the enhanced part of the CD, which you can access by playing it on your computer's CD/DVD drives, a video of the recording of the song is included. Stacy introduces it by saying when he does it live he has to be reading off a lyric sheet because he doesn't know the lyrics that well.
The video cuts back and forth between him and his band recording in the studio and them doing the song live. When he gets to the point in the lyrics where that line comes in the live show, he reaches out and throws the lyric sheets away. It's a beautiful, little, and funny gesture, that fits right into the tone and mood he set for the song. On the one hand he's created an amazing delta blues number that he plays with absolute seriousness, and on the other hand he gently teases Led Zeppelin.
Stacy Mitchhart is a gifted, eloquent, and heartfelt blues musician who plays some of the best down to earth blues music I've heard in a long time. If you've never heard him before do yourself a favour, when Gotta Get The Feeling Back Again is released this Sept. 18th pick up a copy, you won't regret it.