Mike West – The Next Life
Release Date: 07/08/2020
Running Time: 33:27
Review by Beth Jones
We first came across Mike West at our favourite haunt, Mcleans Pentre, and he instantly became a hit with me. His southern style acoustic jams conjure images of chilling round a campfire as the sun sets. And now we can all enjoy the sultry tones of his gravelly pipes from the comfort of our own homes, with “The Next Life” – his debut full length album! You can’t beat a bit of country folk/blues, can you? The tormented, Jack Daniels fuelled ramblings of the jaded, set to music, has long been a favourite of many a music fan, and I’m no exception! When listening to Mike, you’d be forgiven for thinking that he was a pure deep south cowboy, come across the pond to serenade us with ramblings penned on his back porch. But he’s not, he’s actually from Rock Ferry up on the Wirral!
“The Next Life” is packed full of all the bluesy goodness that I would expect from Mike, and has a few tracks that were my favourites live, too! It starts with the title track, which is a lilting, folk inspired tune. The addition of slide and violin here really enhances the sound, and the track travels through tempo changes which keep it interesting. And, of course, on top of it all sits Mike’s unmistakable vocals. They’re reminiscent of Tom Waits, and this pleases me greatly!
The album continues in a similar lamenting style, with Mike’s lyrical poetry featuring strongly throughout. This is one of his strongest points – his word smithery creates a wonderful storytelling element, which is both heartfelt and thought provoking. This is displayed perfectly in track 3, ‘What If?’.
With most tracks recorded in a minor key, the melancholy air of this album is tangible, but not in a bad way. It takes me back to my days playing in a folk band, where the best songs were always in a minor key! That said, I think my favourite track on the album is ‘For Them’, which is actually in a major key! However, it doesn’t lose any of it’s storytelling ability, and is full of reflection upon life, which is Mike’s forte.
The production of this album is also very well done. Recorded at Kingwood Studios in Liverpool, it has the effect of a live performance, which somehow adds to the impact of the music. And more importantly, while the addition of other instruments does fill out the sound, nothing overpowers Mike’s guitar and vocals, which are the stars of the show.
Because of Mike’s unique vocal style, “The Next Life” might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I think it’s a very well created debut full-length, of which he should be extremely proud. There’s nowhere to hide when playing acoustically and creating a set of songs that are musically sound, deep and thoughtful, but also able to captivate an audience, is a difficult thing to master. With this album, Mike West has done them all for me, and I look forward to seeing where he takes things to next, as I think he has really found himself, and now has a lot more to give.
01. The Next Life
02. Work On
03. What If?
04. Company I Keep
05. Away I Go
06. Father to Son
07. Rock Ferry
08. For Them
09. No Grave
Mike West – Vocals, Guitar, Harmonica and Bass
Paul Miceli-Fagrell – Harmonica, Recording and Mixing
Amy Chalmers – Violin
Travis Egnor – Pedal Steel, Slide Guitar
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