Artist: Mick Kolassa
Album: Double Standards
Label: Swing Suit
Release Date: 2.5.2018
Mississippi-based guitarist and vocalist Mick Kolassa gathers a bunch of his friends for duets in this set of blues standards. Blues is often rowdy and raucous but here Kolassa and friends demonstrate how the idiom can be played with finesse and class, albeit rather casually. Kolassa has a deep voice perfectly suited for the blues and could carry this material quite easily by himself. Yet, the contrasts, the call and response, and the general rapport of the proceedings lifts his performances too. He says, “I learn more with every project and this one forced me to step up and stretch – I let my partners set the vocal style for the song and then worked to fit into their groove – what a blast!”
Although the album comes across as a loose affair, it took some time to complete. Basic tracks were laid out, together with scratch vocals, in December 2016. In January 2017, during IBC week, the first duet was recorded, and this continued as different artists came to town. In the end, they used four different studios at Ardent in Memphis as well as working with producer Jeff Jensen in his own studio.
Anyone familiar with blues, and even some that aren’t, will recognize many of these songs: “I Just Want to Make Love to you,” “Spoonful,” “Key to the Highway,” to name just three. Of the thirteen three were penned by Willie Dixon and three by Tampa Red. Apart from stellar duet performances form Annika Chambers (“Fever”), Gracie Curran (“Don’t You Lie to Me”), and Victor Wainwright (“It’s Tight Like That’), Alice Hasan’s violin is an especially nice touch on “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out” and “It Hurts Me Too.” Kolassa plays guitar on just three tracks as Jeff Jensen handles most of those parts along with a core band.
The album closes in fine style with almost each of the twelve guests taking a verse on “Ain’t Nobody’s Business” before all join in on the chorus. An album of standards can just as easily flop as succeed as most listeners have a favorite version of each song in mind. Yet, these musicians find unique ways to interpret the material, making an enjoyable listen.