Michael Messer

Second Mind

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Once upon a time, a reviewer would've noted the influence of Chicago blues on the English music scene of the 1960s. Thirty or so years later, it is just as relevant to note the influence of the English blues revival on contemporary players like Michael Messer. His sensibilities, in fact, draw from early Fleetwood Mac, John Mayall, and on occasion, the Rolling Stones. This, however, isn't meant to imply that Second Mind is no more than a revival of the revival. On "Blue Letters" he mixes a brooding guitar with a backtrack of scratching vinyl to carve out a sound reminiscent of Chuck Prophet's later work. It's fascinating, in fact, to find two different artists, one working in America, one in Britain, cross-mixing genres to create fresh sounds. These fresh effects would mean little, however, without good songs, and Second Mind is full of them. Messer had a hand in most of them and the stylistic range is impressive. The infectious, upbeat "Hummingbirds in My Soul" gives way to the atmospheric "Big Wind," which in turn prepares the way for the Stones' rocker "Love." The production is clean and clear, making sure to keep space between the various guitar parts and tastefully weaving in bits of keyboards and gospel singing. The arrangements, taking advantage of the stylistic range, offer a number of pleasant surprises. Flourishes of accordion adorn "Shine On," while harmonica provides a little something extra on "Tail Feather Blues." All of these elements, along with Messer's fine vocals, make Second Mind a superior release and also a match for his 2001 release, King Guitar.

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