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Mike Mettalia & Midnight Shift – Midnight Sun

Lost World Music

14 tracks; 52.52 minutes

This is the third release from this Pennsylvania band which consists of Mike Metallia on harp and vocals, Mike McMillan on guitar, Tim Smith on drums and Paul Pluta on bass. The band plays a variety of material, well demonstrated by the first two tracks: “Work Don’t Work” is a harp-driven slab of Chicago style blues while “Calabash” is a great slice of rock and roll propelled by guest piano player Chicago Carl Snyder. Both tunes are penned by Mike Metallia who wrote nine of the fourteen songs, three in collaboration with guitarist Mike McMillan. Six tracks were recorded at Memphis’ Sun Studios, the remainder in Pennsylvania with one bonus track being a live recording from the 2011 Lehigh River Blues Jam.

Track 3 is the first cover and another change of style with pedal steel (Jim Callan) and April Mae providing a duet vocal on a light and jazzy version of Hank Williams’ “The Blues Come Around”. I am a huge fan of John Nemeth and his “Magic Touch” is a great song but the band’s version almost eclipses the original as Mike McMillan and guests Jimmy Cavallo (sax) and Dan McKinney (piano) tear it up. Jimmy Cavallo also appears on his own jump style “Leave Married Women Alone”, singing and playing sax at a sprightly 84 years of age! “Mama’s Little Baby” was an obscure record by rockabilly artist Junior Thompson and is another great piece of rock and roll, clocking in at just over two minutes. In contrast Jimmy Rogers’ “What Have I Done” is the live bonus track and provides an opportunity for an extended harp dialogue between Mike and guest Steve Guyger.

Returning to the originals title track “Midnight Sun” is another gentle-paced jazzy piece with some nice rhythm guitar work. “The 796 (Memphis Route)” may have Memphis in the title but the sound here is far more Chicago in tone with some harp mike vocals. Another Memphis connection appears in “Sun Record Sleeve”, a pounding rocker with some terrific guitar while “Built For Speed” may be a belated response from Mike to Howling Wolf’s “Built For Comfort”: “He’s a real big man, about 6 foot 5, he’d rather see me dead than get out alive. He got the room covered, he’s heading for the bed. I duck down quick and he missed my head. I’m built for speed, I ain’t built for stability”. “Love Reaction” has an infectious rhythm and “Heartsick” starts out like The Ventures, complete with surf guitar - the drums deserve special mention on this one! “Cheat You Fair” is an upbeat instrumental with plenty of harp and is, as the subtitle states, a “Tribute To Maxwell Street” where the young Mike Metallia learned his blues trade.

Overall there is a lot to enjoy here with plenty of variety across the range of blues styles..

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music.

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