Stuff Music 2017
Solid sophomore serving from SMOKIE’s six-string shooter – sharp, stinging and… sentimental.
It took this guitarist a long time to embark on a solo path, yet while his 2014 debut "My Kinda Heaven" felt like a tentative outline of Mick McConnell’s talent and potential as a performer in his own right, “Under My Skin” delivers on its predecessor’s promise with much gusto. The opening lick of “Holdin’ On” may be misleading, as it’s not a blues album, but, boy, does it set the scene for an emotional ride where punch and grace go hand in hand to support the title’s statement. Whereas Mick’s claim to “stick to what I know” may add an air of conservatism to it all, his allegiance to tradition and tasty flair don’t fail to fill the ten cuts on offer with sweet surprise.
Mick’s vocals and six-string stylings are at their most impressive on “Visiting Mr. ‘J'” that in part is a tribute to Robert Johnson, yet “Spell On Me” infuses his romantic musings – given a female backing – with a catchy groove, the very gist of this artist. Dancing around piano boogie and bouncing off organ roar, McConnell’s guitars rumble playfully on the likes of “Man With A Smokin’ Gun” – ain’t it a good nickname for him? – while “Cross The Line” has a powerful twang applied to a series of serious confessions which form a firm determination. Mischief as part of his method, Mick makes the transparent, if honeyed and crispy like love in the morning, “All My Soul” a contrasting follow-up to “No She Don’t… Like Country” where he admits, “I don’t do soul,” to luxuriate in his sweaty swagger, and it’s these mood shifts that keep the listener riveted to the record and enjoy it all along.
Here, the artist does get under one’s skin, his music becoming a second layer of it that’s so comfortable to live with, and here, the player and the listener become one. Quite an achievement.
Out on March 24th, 2017.