Chicago’s Mike Musikanto is back with his second record Sky Of Dresses.
Having made some inroads with his 2009 debut Ghost Pain he will surely be looking to take things up a gear with this record.
He has a distinctive vocal (complete with that alt-country twang) and a knack for penning melodies so he certainly has the tools, the question is however, does he have the songs?
Opener ‘Blues For Momma’ is two-and-a-half minutes of tear stained country music that sets the tone wonderfully well. It is a simple little ditty – one man and a gentle, finger picked guitar – and with lyrics like ‘Sometimes I’m hard and sometimes I’m brave / But Momma I don’t want you to slip away‘ it is certain to pull at your heartstrings.
There is a lot more here besides downbeat tearjerkers though. ‘Every Which Way’ is a slice of perfect up-tempo Americana that will keep you tapping along and ‘Colors In The Grey’ contains enough banjo for something of a hoedown.
Elsewhere the piano makes a few appearances. ‘Take What You Need’ and ‘Byzantine’ sounds a little like Train if they had Ryan Adams as their frontman and ‘Awful Mind’ leans away from the country and folk genres slightly and more into indie territory, resulting in something that contains echoes of Tokyo Police Club.
The real reason that this is such a great record though, is that Musikanto had the good sense not to complicate these songs by trying too hard or throwing too many instruments into the mix. On the title track he sings about ‘Simple confessions‘ and that is really all these songs are and that is all they need to be.
Like Ryan Adams – with whom Musikanto is often compared – he has the rare ability to turn a simple chord progression and a handful of words into a very moving song.
In fact a lot of this record nods to Adams and his alt-country peers and the most complimentary thing you can say is that it isn’t swamped by such comparisons. It holds it’s own amongst the great and the good of the genre.
The real test is still to come of course. To continue to live up to these comparisons this record will need to be the benchmark for his career, not the highlight of it.
If he can keep to this kind of standard, though, there is no limit to what Musikanto may achieve.
To read our interview with Musikanto click here.