Mike Ireland & Holler
Mike Ireland, formerly of The Starkweathers, released his solo debut in 1998, with Learning How to Live, and while its winning simplicity and his aching voice brought raves from those in the know, the record sold about 12 copies. So it can be understood, perhaps, why it took four years for the follow up, Try Again. The wait was certainly worth it. Ireland still writes real songs about real situations, played honestly and well without frills (although the electric sitar on “Close Enough to Break Each Other’s Hearts” is a nice touch). However, unless something completely strange occurs, this record won’t sell a boatload more than its predecessor.
The reason for that is due primarily to the fact that Ireland plays music in the style of George Jones, Ray Price and Charlie Rich (whose “Life Has Its Little Ups & Downs” is given a swampy shakeout here), and hell, that stuff doesn’t sell particularly well to begin with. He doesn’t have an image that CMT would embrace (he looks like a guy who works on a factory line, frankly) and he doesn’t sing about getting drunk in your Camaro or whatever the big hat and belt buckle crowd yarps about. He sings about love, pain and trust in a voice that echoes his heroes without aping them. The album, with strings arranged by Jerry Yester sounds brilliant and lush, owing much to the production of Mike Deming (who has worked with such country stalwarts as Apples In Stereo and Beechwood Sparks) and Ireland. Ireland has enjoyed visits to the Grand Old Opry to perform his music, and that’s certainly a hopeful sign for fans of real country music such as this. While he may never sell as many records in his life as a Travis Twit does in an afternoon, his music will last longer, and effect listeners deeper, than anything you’ll see on CMT. Give it a chance.
Ashmont Records: http://www.ashmontrecords.com