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Michael Monroe Goodman

The Flag, The Bible & Bill Monroe – 2015 (Mammer Jam Records)

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

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CDs by Michael Monroe Goodman

You have to figure that with a title like "The Flag, The Bible & Bill Monroe," Michael Monroe Goodman is talking some serious stuff. After all, his middle name was given him in honor of Bill Monroe, the father of modern bluegrass and a family friend. It's only fitting then that this, Monroe's second album to date, is imbued with the kind of authenticity that resonates from the roots. Although it can't be classified as bluegrass, it does cull other traditions - the Texas swing that drives songs like "Wretched Woman" and "I'm Just Country," and the sturdy drive and fierce determination fuelled through songs such as the title track.

Then again, that's a tack that's obviously close to his heart, both personally and professionally. Goodman spends much of his time acting professionally, and he's starred as Johnny Cash in the Chicago production of "Ring of Fire." Goodman was also part of the touring company of "Million Dollar Quartet," which details a secret superstar summit attended by Cash, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. Little wonder then that he's managed to integrate music into all aspects of his professional career.

Hailing from Kentucky, Goodman learned those lessons early on. He played his first gig at age 15, and he insists that most of these songs are drawn from his own experiences. The song "Rosine I Cry" finds him offering a lament for the tiny town where Bill Monroe was born. In a sense, it eulogises the passing of a simpler life overall. Indeed, the pain is palpable throughout. On the rollicking "Drunk Again," he sings in vivid detail about growing up with an alcoholic father. On the other hand, tender tracks like "Tinkerbell Love Song," "Concerts in my Underwear" and the title track share the sort of sentiment that only comes from the heart of someone who's experienced some simple joys of life as well.

Sweeping steel guitar and the gentle pluck of mandolin add authenticity, especially on songs like the remarkably affecting "If She Knew" and the tearful "She Was Mine," a song that finds him marking the anniversary of his mother's passing. In fact, the emotions ricochet back and forth, but there's not a single song here that doesn't impart an emphatic impression. It's an excellent example of Goodman's skills and savvy, one that would mostly likely make its namesake smile his approval.