Mike Pope – Songs For People (High & Low)
A delightfully peculiar set – this is what makes some Americana music interesting. At times Pope’s showcase projects with a delicate primitive folk expressiveness. The atmosphere is Ramblin’ Jack Elliot-like (“Steep Cracked Rocks”) & done with a creative identity that never loses touch with its ebullient sources. There are vintage touches in his voice but he manages to sonically inject a noir sensibility that isn’t urban but suggests deep lost little towns with character softly blurred in a morning fog & pensive pathways no one takes alone anymore.
There’s self-reflection, lone wanderings, clever rhymes & watercolor faces with running hues from old rain. Pope’s from Southern California & his material is abstract gothic folk. His music is a hot cup of java & sugar spiked with moonshine. After a few gulps, it takes you places only found in vivid imaginations.
This music is not your Hee-Haw TV music. The 12-cut, 37-minute Songs For People (High & Low) – (Drops Oct 7-Blind Owl) was produced by Daniel Cervantes & Jordan Andreen. With dark haunting melodies that are attractive with curiosity & performed fluently. It reinvents the breeze of old melodies as done in “Ain’t It Fine,” which actually is “Wild Mountain Tyme.” But comparisons aside, Pope has renewed the ancient folk melody, gave it new life, a second life.
Pope (acoustic guitar/vocals) doesn’t have a perfect voice but does have the right voice for this type of interpretation. He follows in the footsteps of Elliot, Townes van Zandt, John Martyn, Bert Jansch, early Ry Cooder, Taj Mahal & Keb’Mo. Songs nimbly skip along & often accessible. These are not too heavy-handed though there’s sensitivity. Many are effective despite spare instrumentation.
Their dark-hued tunes & lean heavily on feeling rather than just entertainment. The banjo is subtle, but the tunes are never thin, controversial, or too cute. Highlights – “Mirror,” “Maryanne,” (all 3 versions), “St. Augustine,” & “My Gods.”
Musicians – Danica Pope & Monica Daniels (vocals), Jeff McElroy (bass), Orion Ferguson (synth), Clinton Davis (violin), Anna Levitt (violin), Jody Bagley (piano), Peter Hirsch (bass/cello/vocals), Andy Rae (percussion/vocals) & Brady Alvarez (banjo/vocals).
Image courtesy of Mike Pope’s website.
Check out our review of Mike Pope’s other album, here: REVIEW: Mike Pope “Ripening (Ain’t It Strange)”