The hoarse edge on Mike Youngerâ€™s voice might remind you of a young Don Henley, and thereâ€™s an earthiness to his delivery thatâ€™s more middle-America than Los Angeles. Originally from Nova Scotia, he wandered the world before setting down in Nashville where his rootsy honky-tonk and folk fit easily into the scene that lays beneath the cityâ€™s commercial sheen. His years as a busker taught him that gimmicks might stop a passerby, but itâ€™s having something personal to say that will make them stay. That same lesson works well on record as he sings of both his own plights, and those of the audience to whom heâ€™s played face to face.
He identifies with a working class that seeks a moment to dream of something better for themselves, as well as those they will leave behind to inherit the planet. His protagonists nobly hold to their convictions, even as their principles become their last possession, and they remain optimistic that the good in people will win over societyâ€™s most selfish instincts. He rejects the short-sighted profits of â€œPoisoned Riversâ€ and reflects on the gained experience of shared hardship as he laments a mortal ending on â€œHow To Tell a Friend Goodbye.â€ The latter songâ€™s lack of emotional resolution will be familiar to anyone whoâ€™s felt they came up short in a final farewell.
This is a serious album, but not one without lighter charms. â€œNever Was a Dancerâ€ recalls Youngerâ€™s clever effort at turning his lack of experience into an invitation for instruction, with neatly crafted lyrics that leave the actual definition of â€œdancingâ€ to the listenerâ€™s imagination. He falls for a honky-tonkinâ€™ gal on â€œRodeo Queenâ€ and celebrates the weekâ€™s end with â€œThe Living Daylights.â€ His songs of social conscience suggest Woody Guthrie, John Mellencamp, Steve Earle, and his first producer (for 1999â€™s Somethinâ€™ in the Air), Rodney Crowell. Youngerâ€™s voice is authentic and he has something to say. [Â©2017 Hyperbolium]