Voidfree 2024

In the country town where the laughter sounds: American journeyman go seeking out his roots.

Time Will Tell

“Waterworks Junction”: there couldn’t be a better metaphor for Mike Ian’s creative unpredictability – in terms of genre, rather than quality that’s the sole constant throughout the New Jerseyan’s career which, in the course of the last three decades, encompassed orchestral pieces, acoustic etudes, jazz numbers and pop ditties. But if his 2022 prog opus "The Learning Tree" seemed to signal the summit of the multi-instrumentalist’s fantasy flight, its follow-up is a collective effort – where Ian co-penned all the tracks with his old pal Matt Janda and new friend Gab Howarth with whom Mike also shared a vocal load – finding the veteran go down to earth and explore the world of westerns. However, what might have turned just as cinematic as his previous cosmic album, only to sound too narrow style-wise, possesses enough diversity to drive the listener’s wagon across the prairie for almost an hour.

The fellow traveler may not notice that on the artist’s site the poignantly uplifting “Know Not” has both these words starting with a “K” which can change the whole perspective of the proceedings – especially when the song preceding it is the magnificent, soulful “This I Do Not Know” – but slight shifts of music paradigm are what’s moving “Time Will Tell” forward. While the record’s titular opener rides pure country vibe, infectiously so, kazoo and fiddle rippling the composition’s acoustic surface and harmonies-heightened refrains, the bluegrass hurry and groovy restrain inform “Something About You” with intimate warmth before handclaps propel the atmosphere from barn to ballroom and piano passages come married to pedal steel lines to let an a cappella coda take off to the heavens. Here’s the place for the harmonica-helped gospel sway of “River Of Hope” and gorgeous balladry of “Renew My Faith” – if not for the effervescent hoedown of “West Texas Plains” or the platter’s eponymous brass-laden patinated dance – as well as for “And When You Fall” with its amazing six-string solo and “The Best I Can”: a stripped-down summary of the trio’s spiritual intent.

One wouldn’t have to wait to see whether time will tell how this album fares for it’s as good as it can get.


June 28, 2024

Category(s): Reviews
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