This isn't the Mike Love from the Beach Boys, about whose work I basically could care less, but instead the Mike Love country balladeer who's opened for Big Time and superstar acts: Toby Keith, Tim McGraw, Jason Aldean, and etc. Not hard to see why those gents chose him either, as this Love's work is thoroughly steeped in the heartland, from the Great Lakes on down to Tejas, yet delivered as though Harry Chapin had been born in Nashville instead of New York City and influenced by Southern country folkies, Hank Snow, and the passel of others we love. Gypsy Man is Mike's full-length debut and much overdue, given his history and AOR/MOR compositional legerdemain. Singing and playing acoustic and electric rhythm guitar, he's recruited several backing musicians (including three different lead guitarists), among whom Nick Havel's pedal steel tends to stand out while generating atmospherics.
Mike's tendencies don't run to theatrics or pyrotechnics at all but instead affective storytelling about the everyday travails of life inside a lot of clever and impactful one-liners ("I didn't know losing you meant losing my mind"; "A lonely bed made for two") and stanzas. Everyone he sings about, you know and most likely are among. If not, then you're too young and inexperienced and thus might do better to reach back to old Bangles LPs, 'cause this music wasn't made for you. Go out and sow some more wild oats and, when you're done, you'll get what's going down here. Aeromotor, a cut written by Jade Hopkins, is a particularly interesting song, a broad metaphor never quite fully interpreted but you know damn well you understand it, a plaintive mixture of reminiscence and the passage of time, the contrast of age and youth.
Old Mexico, penned by Love and bassist Dave Killgore, would not have been surprising on an Eagles album, having that modernly old feel to it, circa the Hotel California era, nor is the closer, Somewhere Deep Inside You, all that distant either, a Don Henley-ish track with a bit of Jay Ferguson as well as faint echoes of Gordon Lightfoot. I mentioned Nashville in the opening paragraph, and that's where Gypsy Man was mastered by none other than Richard Dodd (Tom Petty, The Travelling Wilburys, John Mellencamp, etc.) who interested himself in Love's music after hearing his 2002 EP. Love co-tackled all the other technical chores, and that undoubtedly accounts for why the listener has no doubt whatsoever that he's invested himself fully in every inch of this release.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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