(4 / 5)
Mike Grogan’s third album is a another step up the ladder in strength and quality. The opener, “Show Them What Love Can Do,” is like the rest of this album; a track with real depth.
Elements of a stadium anthem to this track, with much power and energy, likely to fit right with any large festival crowd. No surprise that Mike was lead vocalist and guitarist with a number punk bands, notably The Untouchables. Then followed a period with the post punk indie band “State Of Mind”. Mike has mellowed a little since then and each album demonstrates the increasing mastering of his craft.
There followed periods in different bands including his own seven-piece Mike Grogan Band, until he eventually broke out as a solo artist back in 2011. His debut album, “Heavens Light” followed swiftly, and then 2014’s “Make Me Strong.”
This time around Mike has been joined by an accomplished team for this album project, with Mark Tucker at the hem as producer, the album recorded in Devon. Mark’s track record covers a broad range of leading artists such as Portishead, Pentangle and Jethro Tull.
Also joining Mike are John “Rabbit” Bundrick (The Who, Free and Bob Marley) on keyboards, Phil Beer and Miranda Sykes (of folk super-group Show Of Hands) and bassist James Eller (The The). The combined heritage of these musicians matched with Mike’s gifted song writing and deep, warm vocals is evident on this album.
The title cut flows along like a powerful river, showcasing Mike’s excellent vocals; from the opening mandolin played by Phil Beer to the accordion of Chris Hoban sitting low in the mix, this number builds and builds.
Guitar and vocals lead into, what on first listen could have been mistaken for an Oasis style track a beautiful tune that is wonderfully layered, with backing vocals from Mike Grogan and Maggie Reeday fading in and out. Well worth a couple of listens to really get into it.
If you were looking to for a traditional folk flavour, “The Way” delivers. Joseph O’Keefe’s piano and violin sets the tone, and Mike provides a skilful vocal. Then, “Big Ships” solid, atmospheric treatment of a tale of departing ships in at time of conflict.
John “Rabbit“ Bundrick playing organ takes centre stage on “Underground.” The violins rise slowly, creating an ethereal loveliness, a great example of a “less is more” production value. The song has been allowed to breath and build. It’s a track that could so easily have gone over the top, but it is presented wonderfully by Mark Tucker’s production. The penultimate cut, “Heaven Is Here” is a feel good track that picks up the pace and powers along with a purpose.
As a body of 10 self-penned tracks, this is contemporary folk music at is best .If folk or folk rock is not usually your usual thing, the next time you fancy taking a risk and delving into a new genre for your own tastes, yo could do worse than Google Folk or better still, find some folk gigs and go see live music and buy the albums from the artist direct.
But if folk doesn’t float your boat at all, don’t write this album off as it offers far more than just that one genre. Unlike his beloved Portsmouth FC, Mike Grogan has every chance of moving into the mainstream with this album, potentially opening up a much wider audience to his work, with the right wind behind him and a massive dollop of good luck.
By Ian Shipley
(1 / 5) ‘Dull Zone’
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’