Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Mike Felten: “Fast Mikey Blues Eyes” (2020) CD Review

Mike Felten is one of those musicians who have music coursing through their veins. You can tell just listening to a track or two from his Fast Mikey Blues Eyes album, or from Diamonds And Televisions, which came out in 2017. He’s based in Chicago, and his music is certainly influenced and inspired by his location. Joining him on Fast Mikey Blue Eyes are Pete Mazzeri on bass, and Gary Landess on drums, along with several special guests on various tracks.

The album’s first track, “Three Drinks In,” opens with some great work by Corky Siegel (of The Siegel-Schwall Band) on harmonica, setting the tone. But when I really begin to love this track is when Mike Felten sings, “And I’m thinking it might be a good idea to love you.” What a good line. Of course, then it’s followed by the song’s main line, “But I’m three drinks in, I’m three drinks in.” So perhaps it’s not such a good idea after all. Either way, the song is a lot of fun, and features some great stuff by Barry Goldberg on keys. You might know Barry Goldberg from his work in the band The Electric Flag, but he’s played with a lot of other artists over the years. He played on Leonard Cohen’s Death Of A Ladies’ Man album. And Brad Elvis (of The Romantics) is on drums for this one. This is the perfect song to listen to at a bar. That’s followed by “Detroit Woman.” Some delicious blues guitar gets this one going, and it’s not long before the band kicks in. Barry Goldberg again delivers some delicious stuff on keys, and this time it is Mervyn Harmonica Hinds adding those great comments on harmonica. Brad Elvis is again on drums. Sometimes you’ve got to travel for a woman, as he does in this song. He mentions how gasoline is expensive, singing “When we get to the pump, why, she drains it of every drop.” This is another fun, lively number.

Jamie Wagner joins the group on keys on “Dead Old Girlfriend,” and Harmonica Hinds delivers some more great stuff on harmonica. I can’t help but love this song’s title. Here Mike Felten sings, “I got a dead old girlfriend/Knocking at my door/Knock knock, knock knock/Although she may be dead/It don’t mean she don’t love me no more.” Wow, I didn’t expect this one. And it ends up being another favorite of mine. Mike Felten sticks with the theme of death, following it with a cover of “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean,” written by Blind Lemon Jefferson. This song is also sometimes listed as “One Kind Favor,” as when the Grateful Dead covered it. Some cool percussion gives this track much of its energy. Then “A Girl Walks Into A Bar” has a delicious opening, harmonica and bass. That’s Corky Siegel on harmonica on this one. The song then kicks in, and, yes, is another fun one, with a loose, raw vibe. “They was real gone/Ain’t coming back.” And the album’s title, his nickname, is mentioned in the sort of spoken word section toward the end: “Well, anybody asks you who wrote this song, tell ‘em Fast Mikey Blue Eyes.”

“Chasing A Rumor” features some absolutely wonderful blues guitar work from the start, establishing a cool mood before his vocals come in. “I used to sit here with my baby/Laughing and drinking, laughing and drinking most every night/‘Til she got tired of being the guitar player’s wife.” Oh yes, this is another of the disc’s highlights, just vocals and guitar, with nothing more needed. The band joins him again on “Homan Avenue,” named for a street in Chicago, this song providing a warning that it might be the sort of place we’d want to avoid. “There’s a place in Chicago where you don’t want to go/Where the good lord forgets about you.” Oh, but if there is music like this playing there, then it’s just the sort of place I want to visit. Harmonica Hinds is on harmonica, and Bob Long is on keyboard for this one, and both deliver some wonderful work. Bob Long played keys on Diamonds And Televisions. Then Jamie Wagner plays keyboards on “Godzilla Jones,” and Harmonica Hinds is again on harmonica. There is a good, raw energy to this one, a song about dealing with the bad times.

With that classic blues rhythm, “2302” is immediately enjoyable. This is a song that takes place at the street address where Mike Felten grew up. “Sometimes we were cold/We was always cool,” he sings here. Oh yes, there is always a bit of the blues in growing up. That’s followed by “Y’all Are Guilty.” You know things aren’t going to go well when a song begins with a man polishing a pistol. This song addresses the habit some folks have of judging others based on their appearance, and also those who seem hungry for violence. When listening to this one, I think about that horrible couple in Missouri pointing guns at protesters. “Hey there, mister, with your hand on your pistol/Take a good look around/More of us than there are of you/We’re going to turn that head around.” Bob Long plays keyboards on this one. Then “Where The White Lady Lives” deals with the history of segregation in Chicago. It features some cool work on bass, and some good energy. Jamie Wagner is on keyboards for this one. Mike Felten wraps up the album with “Like Listening To Charlie Parker,” which has a loose, improvised vibe, and features some cool work by Bob Long on keys. “I was standing at the station, Chicago Northwestern/On my way home from the big war/She was late picking me up, but it didn’t matter/I could have stood there in the smoke and mist forever/Like listening to Charlie Parker in the afternoon.”

CD Track List

  1. Three Drinks In
  2. Detroit Woman
  3. Dead Old Girlfriend
  4. See That My Grave Is Kept Clean
  5. A Girl Walks Into A Bar
  6. Chasing A Rumor
  7. Homan Avenue
  8. Godzilla Jones
  9. 2302
  10. Y’all Are Guilty
  11. Where The White Lady Lives
  12. Like Listening To Charlie Parker

Fast Mikey Blue Eyes was released on October 30, 2020 on Landfill Records (though apparently it was released digitally in 2018).

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