Review by Peter Coates – www.facebook.com/InsideEdgePhotography
Mike Elrington has had what most of us would consider a tumultuous couple of years in his personal life, hence the title Aftershock, and that does not include the impacts of the last 6 months thanks to COVID-19 that any musician living in Victoria would have to be suffering.
The power and the passion of the stomping Broken absolutely sums up the need for strength and fortitude in the face of intolerable pain and adversity, and the shouted refrain of “Ain’t Gonna Be Broken” could become the calling cry of all of us!
This intriguing new record, Mike’s ninth record by all reports, opens up with a distorted soundscape intro that gives a few hints of the Blues / Roots / Folk influences that underpin the rest of the record.
A tasty little foot-tapper in It Still Burns suggests a lighter and happier topic than the terrible family break-up that embodies the pain and emotion of this, but that really comes out in the vocals which display all the hurt while the track maintains some positivity through the bounce and melody.
Broken is a powerful track, with a modern take on old Delta Blues feels, and the contrast between the verse and chorus could not be more profound. Some delicate monotone guitar picking under the verse, and then the huge drums, keys and guitars over the stomp-box in the chorus which are unlike almost anything else I’ve heard recently. There is some wickedly good guitar playing in here, and more of it comes to the surface with each listen, and the louder you play it!
There Is A Light is basically Mike on guitar and vocals, with some keys providing some atmospheric backing, and allows him to pour out his heart on the topic of depression, and try to provide a statement of support for anyone suffering, to show that there is a way out of the difficulties.
A wonderfully uplifting duet with June Harrison is the hard-driving shuffle of She Don’t Want Nobody To Love which has a rough and dirty guitar riff, and some pulsating Hammond Organ from Liam Kealy, while Roderick Mcleod keeps a really tight crisp beat. The key changes and the shared vocals give the track some enormous energy, and this would no doubt bring the house down when performed live.
The piece de resistance for this record may well be The Mirror, written in a hotel room in Nashville, and features some wonderfully intricate guitar work, some menacing, snarling but powerful vocals, Aaron Gilet doing some great stuff on the harmonica, while the Hammond swirls underneath – this one I want to hear live and very loud to really appreciate the intensity of the track.
A rootsy stomp again with She’s On My Mind Again which gets better and better as it progresses, and the guitar playing here is quite spectacular – the sounds and effects are beyond me with the fuzz-rich riffs and twanging acoustic melding into a really effective blend. The feel continues with that fuzzy guitar on Don’t Give Me A Dime, over more of a hip-hop flavour with raps from Leroy Jackson aka Where Is Leroy and Michael Honey aka Maelstrom giving the track their own individual touches, while the chorus is a bluesy chant that follows the guitar line.
Only In Your Eyes is a delicate acoustic ballad that builds into an intense vocal performance over strings and timpani that delivers a mighty impact. Some beat-box background, with almost doo-wop backing vocals provide the sparse backing to Walk It With You before the band kicks in with an unexpected melody and warmth, including a great guitar line through the pre-chorus. The closing mass vocals are a joyous celebration that brings some great positivity with it.
A wonderful piece of acoustic guitar from Mike opens up this raw version of the late Jesse Younan’s Dirty Death, which sees the frenetic driving guitar work under the powerful voice, including a mid-section insert of Three Blind Mice, before the guitar takes over again to deliver an extraordinary outro that includes some really earthy vocals through to the close.
The record ends with a gentle homily in Fly Away, that again showcases the voice and guitar, and is the perfect way to round out this really personal yet ultimately uplifting collection of songs.
If you listen to all the lyrics of this record, you can really feel the emotion and pain from Mike’s recent challenges coming through in his often gut-wrenching vocals, but the power of the guitar work, and the sometimes spiritual energy in the music that comes from the gritty guitar sounds, the keyboards and the stomp box, all lend the music a freedom and intensity that is somehow liberating, and you hope that this has been a watershed moment for Mike as he puts the challenges behind him and takes a step forward.
Release – 18th Sept 2020 – Only Blues Music
Pre-orders at https://ditto.fm/shesonmymindagain
Mike Elrington Online