Mike Stinson

REVIEW: Mike Stinson & Johnny Irion “Working My Way Down”


Mike Stinson & Johnny Irion – Working My Way Down (Blackwing Music)

Mike Stinson and Johnny Irion started working on a record together years ago. And, well, sometimes life gets in the way and projects get put on the backburner. In this case, this one sat on the stove for almost 30 years.

In the time between, Irion – former frontman for the rock band Queen Sarah Saturday – put out a slew of solo records. Stinson, meanwhile, also went the solo route, but also padded his resume working with everyone from Christina Aguilera to Liz Phair and wrote for Billy Bob Thornton and Dwight Yoakam, among others.

Working My Way Down initially started when Stinson and Irion, both living in California, began writing songs together in the mid-1990s. The combination of their two voices, both equally distinct, along with their mix of strong Southern rock and Country made for an impressive sound. Marriages, deaths and life sidetracked the two for decades, but the prolonged hiatus has done nothing to diminish the cohesiveness of the record. Far from sounding like a grab bag of styles and disparate spare songs, the 11 tracks here all fit together nicely.

The album opens on the raucous “The Bottle And Me,” before sliding into the bluesy title track. What follows is a set that vacillates between driving, full throttle rock and catchy Americana, recalling bands like Drivin’ n’ Cryin’ and Jason & The Scorchers. The mellow “Only Friend I Ever Had” tends to stop the momentum of the record right in the middle, but the album gets back on track with the Tom Petty-like tune “Cosmic Candy” and ends on the satisfying “Stranger Here Myself”.

And now to get to the label putting out the record. Blackwing pencils had been used by songwriters and composers since the 1930s. The pencils were temporarily discontinued in the 1990s before being revived by several music fans who saw an opportunity to deepen that connection between their product and musicians. Along with bringing back the beloved pencils, this group started Blackwing Music, which is releasing records by folk, roots and Americana artists (including Mike Stinson & Johnny Irion); and the Blackwing Foundation which helps fund music and arts education in public schools.

Find more information including tour dates, here: https://mikestinsonjohnnyirion.com

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