Mick McConnell 2011
SMOKIE axeman searches for the higher ground – in good spirits and in a good company.
It rarely shows in the pop-rock context he’s been in since 1996, but Terry Uttley‘s six-string foil has an adventurous streak, and one should see McConnell’s delight at finding a new sound while picking his instrument backstage before the show. But, capable of a guitar hero stance, Mick’s licks’ natural habitat is the songs he writes, ten cuts that make up his solo debut revealing this hidden side of the artist. Thus, there’s unexpectedly hard, if funky, veneer to “Repo Man” where McConnell’s husky vocals take the lead over the gospel-colored sway, and an urban soulfulness to “Sign Of The Times” whose effervescent drive offsets the piano-led ballad “Remember Those Days” which bares Mick’s soft underbelly.
Elsewhere, “World’s Gonna Crazy” floats on McConnell’s acoustic fingerwork and lyrically echoes the vibrant blues-lined opener “Keep On Turning” voiced by John Parr of “St. Elmo’s Fire” fame and providing terra firma for SMOKIE fans. Yet “Working For The Weekend” bears an Americana imprint – the album was partly laid down in Nashville – unlike the equally upbeat title track that, its sunshine crunch notwithstanding, rides an English sort of hope which also illuminates the anthemic chorus of “Don’t Walk Away” given additional spring in the step by Trevor Bolder‘s bass. Mick’s guitar finally comes forward on the instrumental closer “Rain On Flinders Street” to soar romantically to melodic paradise whence his adventure can start anew any day soon – the sooner the better.