There are right and wrong ways to do everything. What Mike Blackmore did with his two instruments, a set of looping devices and a healthy influx of creative imagination was definitely an illustration of one of the right ways. Technological aids are frequently used to create shortcuts. That’s one of the knocks against them. Another is the reputation they’ve acquired for stripping the music of its warmth. With Mike Blackmore there’s no shortcuts. That, along with the imagination involved, and the fact that everything is put together live, insures the music carries the spontaneity and warmth of something that’s been created on the spot. That’s true of his live shows and of his new release, the CD ‘Coyote’
Songs begin with whichever instrument fits his needs. Mostly, it’s the guitar but the djembe drum takes the fore once in a while. From that point he builds the arrangements in layers. His percussion always has a basic backbeat and a fill or so in order to mark changes with a dramatic effect. The rhythm tracks have solid time signatures, generally a bit of ornamentation to spice them up and plenty of space for Mike to add lead playing. From there he plays (and sometimes sings) over top of the arrangement and uses the pedals to control how everything meshes together.
Everything on ‘Coyote’ was laid down the same way arrangements come together at Mike’s shows. ’Heads Up’, which opens the set with a bit of percussion, moves into a sound that combines funk with bluegrass. ‘Changeling’ has aspects of jazz along with a few other influences. The title track has a stark sensibility that evokes imagery of that animal alone in a desert at night. ’Nowhere Blues’ begins with a bluesy grinding that leads into lighter territory. ’Cactus Jam On Toast’ and ‘Myth’ feature exquisite lead playing as does ‘Mr. Bad Lucky’. That last song leans to blues but hints toward other areas. The set as a whole plays out as an array of surprises that touch different areas of thought with each hearing. The material is accessible and easy to connect with before settling in with something that stimulates the imagination in any number of ways. The recorded quality is crisp with clear separation between instruments. Natural sounds (such as the squeaks acoustic guitars make or the sense of strings being plucked) are distinct, as they should be. Everything about the CD feels live.
Review written by Brian Hay with edits by MA