One reliable measure of a musician's mettle is the extent to which they attract players with notable pedigree to collaborate. Fast Mikey Blue Eyes
is a case in point; the legitimacy of both keyboardist-composer Barry Goldberg
and harpist Corky Siegel
l are beyond reproach, so their contributions to guitarist-vocalist-songwriter Mike Felten
's sixth album (for his own label) only reaffirm his own authenticity (not to mention the independence he shares with them).
It is also a tribute to the modesty of those two musicians, not to mention Mike's own confidence, that they only chip in on a pair of cuts each, and strictly in the role of instrumental accompanist. But Goldberg and Siegel's dual appearance on the opener, "Three Drinks In," sets the tone for the other eleven cuts recorded, mixed and mastered with some expertise by Victor Sanders. Unlike the forced facade of so much contemporary blues, there is a natural flow to this performance, the source of this stability no doubt having much to do with the presence of the rhythm section .
On "Detroit Woman," bassist Pete Mazzeri and drummer Brad Elvis sound utterly self-assured underneath the rollicking piano supplied by the former band mate of Steve Miller
and Mike Bloomfield
. And the early appearance of acoustic guitars at the outset of the track hints at the diversity of sound here, especially as such tones reappear in "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean" and the solo number of Felten's "Chasing A Rumor." Such variety also mirrors the participation of two other keyboardists with readily-discernible chops, Jamie Wagner and Bob Long
, as well as Windy City stalwart Harmonica Hinds
on four cuts.
In a further reflection of the veritable embarrassment of riches that is Fast Mikey Blue Eyes
, these efforts are all in addition to the vigorous presence of the co-founder of Chicago's Siegel Schwall Band
on "A Girl Walks Into A Bar." Jim Schwall's once and future partner sets a high bar of engagement with his enthusiastic warbling there and, in doing so, he inspires the others playing along with him as well as the accompanists elsewhere. Without belaboring or otherwise calling attention to their respective and collective immersion in the moment(s), everyone involved sounds caught up in their musicianship, to the extent that there is a certain loose and abandoned air to a track like "2302."
It is a pleasure unto itself to hear a unified group not playing too carefully for its own good. But that is simply a reflection of how liberating it is for Mike Felten to play and sing, as well as compose all but one of the songs here that make up this approximately fifty-minutes. He sounds perfectly comfortable in his own skin and thus radiates such unmitigated gusto that was no doubt perfectly infectious in the studio. It is little wonder that sensation also permeates virtually every moment of Fast Mikey Blue Eyes
, not just its fittingly buoyant closer "Like Listening to Charlie Parker."
Three Drinks In; Detroit Woman; Dead Old Girlfriend; See That My Grave Is Kept Clean; A Girl Walks Into A Bar; Chasing
A Rumor; Homan Avenue; Godzilla Jones; 2302; Y'all Are Guilty; Where The White Lady Lives; Like Listening to Charlie
Mike Felten: vocals.