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Mike Gray - Middle Distance


13 tracks

Mike Gray was born in the Boot heel of Missouri on the northern edge of the Mississippi Delta where blues, roots and gospel music were ingrained in his soul. He plays a straight up blend of electric blues with an earthy emotion. The guitar work is well done and the vocals are homey and authentic. All 13 tracks were penned by Gray.

The songs have a darker tone to their themes. “Demons” start the set, where Gray sings of the demons in the bottle, in smoke and in women that take possession of his soul. I guess you could classify this a “blues meets revival meeting” theme. “Shake Shake” follows and tells us about the dancer he follows home who he entices to continue to shake, shake. “Up To No Good” is another story about women with bad intentions and reputations who tell men what they want to hear. More lying women follow in “Don’t Know the Reason Why” and then we get to “Good People Done Bad,” a slow tune that builds into how those good people messed up. Dark themes, for sure; I was not keen on it to start but it grew and grew on me.

A twangy guitar takes over next on “Blind on the Inside” and Gray continues his dark trip. “The Struggle” is more of the quest for the promised land. “Get Loud” is a cool big boogie woogie cut while “Bad Luck” tells us more of misfortunes. “Comin’ Home” offers a little upbeat topic about going home to his woman.

“Lonely”, “We’ll Be Runnin” and “Bag of Evil” end the set for Mike. “Lonely” features more driving guitar while “We’ll Be Runnin’’ is somewhat the same as Joy announces here of his intents. The final songs has Gray with a throbbing beat where the evil right behind won’t leave him alone.

Gray seems afflicted with demons, relations gone bad, and the struggle of good over evil. The theme here is clear and his approach to the tunes has him along with a bass and drum offering simple yet effective melodies. As I said, this album grew on me but it’s not something to listen to if you wanted to be lifted up high, although one can feel better in that Mike is singing of people and relations far worse than most are in so we can take some solace.

Mike sings of troubles running deep and he does so effectively. I could have used some bigger, more upbeat breaks here and there, but he perhaps uses beat and tempo to do that in his model. All in all, it’s a dark and interesting ride.

Reviewer Steve Jones is president of the Crossroads Blues Society and is a long standing blues lover. He is a retired Navy commander who served his entire career in nuclear submarines. In addition to working in his civilian career since 1996, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and work with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.

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