Mikesell, Mickey : Cows on the Beach!
Introducing: The Uglymen - Doug Camphuis, Matt Cartsonis, Nel Gerome, Ronnie Glover, Don Paddock, Royal Prince Franklin Vanderbilt Jr., Bruce Wandmayer Special thanks to the beautiful people: Karen Russell, Reverend Rocket, DC Dixon (Bluegrass), Craig Easton (Bluegrass), Phil Kaylor (Bluegrass), Enjeong Noh, and Rachel McDowell (for Bessie)... Produced by Nel Gerome Recorded at Parrot Studios, Burbank San Diego Troubadour review 8/2008: Cows on the Beach Written by Julia Bemiss 'It's five o'clock somewhere!' is a good excuse to start the weekend early, unless you're listening to Mickey Mikesell's zanily titled album Cows on the Beach, in which case the party started long before you took your first listen. In Mikesell's musical world, it's always five o'clock. Unexpectedly, a lonesome moan between acoustic and pedal steel guitars begins the album as Mikesell makes a haunting lyric reference to the New Year's Day deaths of Townes Van Zandt and Hank Williams - until the banjo kicks in and you realize he's actually referencing the death of his 'damned old dog.' It's a song about the loved ones around us who have died or left as we contemplate the turning of another 'new' year and confront the aching nostalgia for our younger selves and the memories we aim to keep: 'What I aim to do with these things I miss/is lock them in some vast abyss/in an ivory chest sealed with a kiss/I miss my damned old things,' a poignant song you can dance to. Mikesell doesn't really 'sing' his songs so much as he says them, which might be why a song like 'Damned Old Things' sounds a bit like the Charlie Daniels Band's 'Devil Went Down to Georgia.' You get the idea that Mikesell and his band members (the Uglymen) aren't intentionally trying to emulate Charlie Daniels; they simply know how to craft old-fashioned southern rock songs that show off blazing picking skills and fiddle playing but with a sense of humor usually reserved for upstart stand-up comics. 'The Big Hit Blues' is a bluesy tune with it's electric guitar, harmonica, and lyrics that dream the big dream of rock stardom despite the unabashed fantasy and impossibility of it all. Even if a Big Hit hits, there's still Big Hit #2 looming. The party continues with 'Girls' Night Out,' which isn't about ladies' night at the local bar so much as it's about the dads left behind to mind the kids, take care of the house, and the chaos that ensues. The unexpected addition of saxophone whips it all into a crazed frenzy. 'The Ode to Imperial Beach' cleverly turns Descartes' 'I Think, Therefore I Am' on it's tipsy, one-too-many-tequila-shots side. Somehow it seamlessly blends a reggae backbeat, banjo, and a bluesy twanging guitar into an intriguing interlude. 'The Cigarette Smokes' is the most fun anti-tobacco song you may ever come upon and 'Romeo and Juliet II' is a modern day, virtual version of ill-fated love, country ballad style with a hint of a Hawaiian luau thrown in. Though many of the album's lyrics have a somewhat juvenile tone, they are lovably so. 'Oh, Kentucky' and 'Louisiana, Louisiann' are the most serious and traditional sounding tracks, appearing toward the end of the album, just in time for the last track 'Bluegrass,' at which point the party starts all over again.