By Kristi Kates
Dean Wiers-Windemuller - Dean Wiers-Windemuller
Complete with rubber-stamped, recycled-paper CD envelope, Dean Wiers-Windemullers set includes contributions from James Forrest Hughes on bass, Brian Morrill on drums, and Michael Crittenden on percussion, although the songs are all written by the Grand Rapids singer-songwriter himself.
The whole thing, especially the packaging and notes, is a little too grassroots-earnest at times (my new CD includes a song I sang at my own wedding!) - and one might wonder how the folky Wiers-Windemuller ended up as an opening act for American Idol pop-snippet David Archuleta (?) - but the songs are decently structured, and do showcase Wiers-Windemullers claims of being influenced by the likes of fellow folksters Ray LaMontagne and Martin Sexton.
Opener Though I Wish You Were Here has a catchy, skipping refrain, while the declarative Girl Our Love Will Last features more of Wiers-Windemullers nicely mellow guitar work and slightly overzealous mid-range vocals, and Evidence (for Rush) serves as a direct message to radio crank Rush Limbaugh.
Blue Dirt Band - Blue Dirt
Hailing from Traverse City, musicians Tractor Mike (guitar/mandolin/vocals), Jay Slash (bass/vocals), and Stonewall P.J. (percussion and pots and pans) make up the Blue Dirt trio, whose full-length CD was recorded by Pat Neimesto and features artwork by Robert Schewe.
Their follow-up to a series of Northern Michigan shows at Black Star Farms, Shorts Brewing Company, and Union Street Station, the album starts off slow with John Hartfords Good Ole Days, which awkwardly drags through the first four and a half minutes. Fortunately, the album revives with track two, a spirited take on The Waybacks Sierra Madre that sounds like a countrified version of Squirrel Nut Zippers without the big band instruments. Their version of Tom Pettys Dont Fade On Me is a nifty one, too, with old-timey harmonies and hurried saloon strumming as if a bar stools a-gonna fly through that window at any moment. And three Blue Dirt originals round out the disc, among them a somewhat haphazard, half-hearted instrumental that appears, by title alone, to be their signature piece (Blue Dirt).
Michael Lee - My Own Man
Singer-songwriter Michael Lee Seiler (who goes by the last name Lee on this release) blends songs of Boyne with a hint of Delta blues on his album, a solo escapade away from his work with Synergy and the Claude Fraug Band.
Recorded at Bellaire, Michigans Runyan Media, Lee collaborates with Dave Runyan himself on bass and electric guitar, as well as Ben Silva on drums. Spawned in part from his worship service music, and in part from his experiences at songwriters retreats, Lees tunes and lyrics are quite genuine and heartfelt, if a little overly sentimental. My Own Man is pensive and highlighted with a tinkling piano riff, while Mississippi Blues is an outsiders view of the blues scene; and a pair of Boyne-focused songs (Sweet Boyne and In the Boyne) pay homage to Boyne City and fishing Up North, respectively.
Most of the tracks are anchored by guitar and Lees passive vocals - which quite often waver around the note before landing on it - but he manages to infuse most of the songs with personality. Hes kind of like a slightly less-compelling version of Bob Dylan in how he overcomes his vocal limitations with his sincerity; a minstrel for Michigan, if you will.